Geneva Free Port Prison

The New York Times today features a piece about millions of works of art stored by wealthy collectors in a “free port” in Geneva for tax purposes. You buy a work of art in New York for $100 million and avoid a $4 million tax assessment by shipping the work to a free port. And there it is in storage, accumulated as investment.

One of the World’s Greatest Art Collections Hides Behind This Fence - The New York Times

This image that accompanies the piece shows a chain-link and barbed-wire fence that surrounds the Geneva Free Port.

It is meant, of course, to keep thieves out. But as early advertisers of barbed wire knew well, a barbed-wire fence looks in both directions, inward and outward. While keeping thieves out, the fence imprisons the art.

The super rich don’t pay taxes, nor do they appreciate the art. They just let the art appreciate in the dark of the free port prison.


About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at
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4 Responses to Geneva Free Port Prison

  1. Dan Cram Olsen says:

    The very nature of Art is to be seen, to be shared. Its real worh is in the viewing, letting it touch, enrich or instruct us. Greedy men who can’t see or feel Art take the truth of its power and turn it into monetary sums. How sad that something so natural and part of being Human is so abused and denied to others.


  2. II. says:

    this is so depressing. agree with what dan said.
    i was thinking this is why it is so good that we can just write into the internet, all for free and able to share things that cannot maybe shared otherwise.


    • Scott Abbott says:

      It is depressing. As was the essay in this week’s New Yorker about a Swiss man who stole information from a big Swiss bank he worked for and delivered it to various countries whose citizens were evading taxes by hiding their money in Switzerland. And the Panama Papers. And on and on. The rich. I despise these kind of rich people.
      The internet is wonderful, as you say. So are open access publishers like punctum books that published Zarko’s and my books and lots of other interesting things. And so is your blog.


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