Free port for fine art to open in New York in July

NEW YORK • Geneva has one. So does Singapore. And now New York City is getting its first free port for fine art.

Located in West 146th Street in Harlem, the 110,000 sq ft, five-story facility called Arcis has been designated for as much as US$2.5 billion (S$3.53 billion) of art, according to executive director Tom Sapienza.

Its security features include retina scanning, biometric key control and more than 60 video feeds.

The project, which took more than US$40 million and two years to complete by developer Cayre Equities, is scheduled to open in July, said Mr Sapienza, who previously worked for fine-art storage company Crozier.

The storage sits on a former carpark designated by officials as a foreign trade zone.

While in the zone, merchandise is not subject to US duty or excise tax, according to the US Customs and Border Protection website.

"New York is the art-market capital of the world," Mr Sapienza said.

"So how can it not have a foreign trade zone right here next to the auction houses?"

As prices of art have risen in the past decade, works by the likes of Picasso and Warhol are increasingly seen as an investment.

Many collectors hold their trophies in duty-free bunkers in Geneva and Singapore to avoid a tax hit. 

Arcis, which means fortress in Latin, partnered with the Van Gogh Museum's professional services division to construct a museum-quality, sustainable building, Mr Sapienza said.

Works will be scanned as they move through the building, and the air will change three to six times an hour.

"It's going to be pristine like a hospital," he noted.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline 'Free port for fine art to open in New York in July'. Print Edition | Subscribe