The 7th Deloitte Art & Finance conference last week was completely dominated by the subject of the opening of the Luxembourg Freeport. Taking place in the stunning setting of the Philharmonie Luxembourg it hosted over 300 attendees from financial, art management and museum industries respectively.

Solo presentations and panel discussions all revolved around the potential influence of the Luxembourg Freeport on the local art ecosystem and the location of the facility in the European landscape. There are more than 150 freeports in Europe, what makes the Luxembourg one so special?  Many specialists unanimously endorsed the project for various reasons.

In his opening speech Mr. Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg’s Minister of Finance mentioned the low import tax (6%- lowest in Europe) and its robust security as the main reasons why this freeport is bound to succeed. Posing Luxembourg with its 150 banks as the financial centre of Europe as well as the investment commerce and e-payment leader outside the US, he said Luxembourg perfectly fits into the landscape.

Mr. David Arendt, the Managing Director of the Freeport said he was almost emotional during the opening ceremony the night before. In his eyes, the 22,000m² storage facility with eight showrooms sets new standards for art logistics and with its reported 99% result on the GRASP report (Global Risk Assessment Survey Program), it has a multibillion insurance capacity. He described the undertaking as an entrepreneur Swiss concept, German technology, Italian design, Portuguese street art and Luxembourgish execution. The last task is to convince all the doubting ‘Thomases’ that the Freeport, already booked in 60%, is going to help Luxembourg become the cultural hub of the region.

'I hope for more synergies between collectors and museums to take place here.’ -David Arendt, the Managing Director the Luxembourg Freeport

Mr. Arendt also added it will not be inconsistent with the local VAT regime.

The following panel discussions with logistics and finance specialists presented more diverse opinions. A question regarding Geneva’s bank secrecy met an answer that bank secrecy is becoming a thing of the past and freeports are now taking over the role of storing valuable assets. Another query about import tax which implied that it would be easier to import art via London to save on import tax was dismissed by a vague explanation that shipping costs further into Europe would make costs the same.

An exciting statement came out from Nicholas Mackel of Luxembourg for Finance, hoping that:

‘…the art stored in the Freeport will stimulate the local museums, as long as the owners agree’. 

It seems like the freeport has all the tools to become an interesting solution to many problems. We hope it will rejuvenate the cultural life of the region and become the international hub for valuable assets it aspires to be.