With $4.79 billion in sales last year, the Chinese art market has overtaken art markets in the US and UK to become the largest in the world. According to a recent report in Business Insider, however, the booming industry is not for the love of art.
Experts believe that the growth of the Chinese art market is due to artificial or “show bidding,” a tool used to launder money. According to founder of Skate’s Art Market Research Sergey Skaterschikov, “The Chinese market is really big on money laundering. The good thing about art from that perspective is you can always say I bought it for $100 and now it’s worth $10 million. It’s very difficult to argue with that because of poor transparency of the art price.”
Art transactions have quickly become the method of choice for those wishing to hide their ill-gotten gains. These transactions can also be used to legally pass bribes. To do this, a buyer simply pays the seller many times what an object is worth.
The problem of laundering money and committing other crimes through art and antiquities is not limited to China. According to the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, art crime is the third largest grossing criminal activity worldwide.