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Label: mafia

Saturday 29th October 2016Real Life or Movie Plot?

The art world never ceases to amaze. This sheer amazement is one of the most appealing aspects of the entire business, one that more than makes up for all the pretentiousness and bad gallery openings.

The Italian mafia has apparently been selling artistic and cultural treasures that have been looted across the Middle East and Africa from Libya to Iraq. They have been purchasing them from Islamist militants including the Islamic State, and have been paying for the stolen treasures with arms.

What's even more incredible is the brazenness with which this process occurs. A journalist posing as an art buyer was able to enter a makeshift showroom (apparently located, surreally, inside a salami factory).

It's stories like this that make one wonder whether or not it's real life or a convoluted and possibly stereotypically-lazy movie plot. Unfortunately, the material damage caused by this kind of looting is not only devastating to the sum of human cultural achievement, but also to the people who are currently living under the rule of terror.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano is deeply concerned by the discoveries, which have been known to authorities for some time before they could be rooted out. “We have studied the ‘GDP of terror’ and we know that one of the components is the commercialization of stolen art. The stolen artifacts feed ISIS and contribute to the GDP of terror.”

This kind of looting isn't limited to trade with the Italian mafia, however, as we've discussed here on Gallereo in the past. Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin recently spoke to the UN Security Council on the issue. “Around 100,000 cultural objects of global importance, including 4,500 archaeological sites are under the control of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The profit derived by the Islamists from the illicit trade in antiquities and archaeological treasures is estimated at US$150-200 million per year.”

According to journalist and author Luca Nannipieri, much of the art that is acquired this way becomes effectively laundered through various intermediaries and then winds up in legitimate collections in universities and museums around the world.

As a result of his work chasing the threads of this convoluted world, he has an understandably rather grim take on things. "It is said that beauty will save the world. That is false. Beauty and art are often the reason for murders, destruction, oppression, and devastation.”

A depressing thought, and one that will hopefully be proven wrong as the next chapter of the world unfolds before us.
 

Posted on October 29th 2016 on 07:18pm
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