In China, Art and the Law Collide Again

China’s contemporary art scene is on edge, according to The New York Times, ever since authorities detained a German and his Chinese associate in late March for allegedly dodging China’s import tax regime:

Mr. Jennrich, 31, the company’s general manager and a German citizen, was taken away on the evening of March 30 during a raid of the business’s Beijing offices; hours later Ms. Chu, 29, its operations manager, was summoned for questioning. Mr. Jennrich’s family and colleagues have expressed concern for his health, saying he has been forced to share a cell with 11 others. During the first days of his detention, they added, he was interrogated for 36 hours straight, a violation of Chinese law.

“It’s a living nightmare,” said Mr. Jennrich’s fiancée, Jenny Dam, who said the couple had planned to marry in May.

No trial date has been set.

The detentions have put a spotlight on the mercurial Chinese legal system and raised questions among collectors and industry executives about the potential pitfalls of China’s fast-growing art and antiques market, which last year surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest, according to the European Fine Art Foundation. The crackdown, industry professionals have warned, could dissuade Chinese collectors from bringing home art purchased abroad.

Some have privately questioned the government’s motivation, noting that Integrated Fine Art Solutions has handled the work of Ai Weiwei, the maverick artist who has earned the government’s wrath for his criticism of the ruling Communist Party. Others have suggested that the case is aimed at taking down a foreign-owned company to clear the way for a well-connected domestic player that recently began lavishly investing in the art-handling business.


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