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AC Leads Discussion on the Threat of Sanctions Evasions to U.S. Art Market

March 31, 2023

February 24, 2023, marks one year since Russian forces invaded Ukraine with a plan to “erase Ukraine, its history and its people,” including the country’s cultural heritage. Russia has worked toward its goal by destroying historical sites and looting Ukraine’s rich cultural history, ultimately playing a role in financing their reign of terror.

Despite the U.S. government’s efforts to isolate Russia and its economy, the American art market remains a blind spot for Russia’s crimes. As the American art market continues to be recognized as the largest unregulated market in the world, the U.S. government must do more to prevent financial crimes from impacting responsible dealers, collectors, and citizens.

On March 30, 2023, the Antiquities Coalition hosted a roundtable to discuss the vulnerabilities of the American art market and the importance of sanctions as a preventative measure against bad actors looking to exploit it. “Not a Pretty Picture: Threats Facing the Responsible Art Market, U.S. Economic Integrity, and National Security from Sanctions Evasions” featured government officials, law enforcement, academics, non-governmental organization leaders, and other experts to explore each sector’s role in closing loopholes and protecting the $30 billion market.

Attendees also focused on the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations (PSI) report that pointed out many of these financial loopholes remain wide open to misuse. This 150 page report, compiled from dozens of interviews and millions of documents, detailed how a pair of Russian oligarchs had laundered at least $18 million through top auction houses and galleries, in full evasion of U.S. sanctions imposed in 2014 on Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. 

The Antiquities Coalition thanks all participants who shared their expertise during the roundtable and looks forward to seeing the U.S. government take further action to preserve and protect our nation’s cultural heritage.