Crime and the Art Market

As high-profile cases of art theft, fraud and forgery hit the headlines, Lund Humphries publishes a timely exploration of the murky world of international art crime. Here author Riah Pryor introduces the book.

Crime and the Art Market cropped test 2The first time I stood in an auction house as a journalist, I presumed that every art dealer and collector around me was a suspect waiting to happen. After a few years working as a researcher in the Art & Antiques Unit of London’s Metropolitan Police Service (at New Scotland Yard), my perspective on the art market was cynical, to say the least.

Readers of mainstream coverage on the subject of art crime will hear the art market described as ‘murky’ and ‘unregulated’, and may similarly share such cynicism. But how accurate, or fair, is this presumption of the art market being ‘guilty until proven innocent’? It did not take many more years working as a journalist within the art market for my early views to be challenged. Despite my ongoing interest in reporting on criminal and civil cases involving art works, with every specialist dealer and passionate collector I met, the complexity of the reasons behind art crime became obvious.

This book, Crime and the Art Market, was an attempt to outline where my opinions are today. There is more at stake than simply determining how many criminals there are in the art market. Under consideration are concerns as to whether the art market, with its opaque structures and secretive ways of doing business, is fundamentally facilitating criminal activity. To pick the situation apart, one must delve into an intricate network of political, financial, ethical and personal factors, and consider how art crime functions within the market. The extent to which attempts to investigate and prevent the problem compared to other sectors within society also needs to be examined, as does the fact that the art market itself has changed exponentially since study of art crime began.

Riah Pryor’s fascinating new book Crime and the Art Market is available now from our website.

Riah Pryor is an investigative journalist specialising in the relationship between art and law, and is Head of Development and Operations at Focal Point Gallery. She previously worked at The Art Newspaper as Art Market Assistant Editor, and was a researcher at New Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit.

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