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Zilkens' News Blog

Dr. Stephan Zilkens

Stephan Zilkens

Zilkens‘ News Blog 52 2022

For Catholics, today is the feast day of the arch-martyr Stephen, who suffered to be stoned to death for his faith. That was 2,000 years ago - but there are parts of the world that, for the life of them, do not want to arrive in the present day because dark-robed, male fools fear for their privileges and, under the guise of religion, apply a law in which stoning is not forbidden - even worse: now the Taliban forbid women to work for NGOs under the pretext that they are not wearing sufficient veils.

For everyone else, it's either Boxing Day or simply the last Monday in 2022. In Europe, most people are off work and have the Christmas story in their heads only as a celebration of consumption and leisure. Faith and profanation somehow do not go together. In any case, it's customer-free time for most galleries, auction houses and art shops, because they're either skiing or in pleasant places around the world.

In the meantime, Russia's attack on Ukraine continues unabated and tones can be heard from Moscow that, for those used to peace until February 24, still somehow sound like from another time, when people were used to thinking only in black or white. Medvedev sees the nuclear arsenal as a guarantee for Russia that the enemies in the West will not attack and at the same time refers to 6,000 nuclear warheads that describe the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. One wonders why we in Germany have spent decades building up our energy supply on a country where the old image of the evil capitalist enemy can be revived so quickly? It sounds like old Soviet rhetoric, and one cannot shake off the impression that in Moscow the soreness caused by the territorial losses of individual states in the course of perestroika is excessive. So great, in any case, that the beast in man is let loose, poorly trained, on a people that had returned its nuclear weapons to the old brother nation. The development of freedom there, which also brought forth a strong art scene, was probably not bearable for the oligarchy, which was polarised on luxury consumption in the GUM. Possibly the core is to be found in a too rapid removal from old patterns of behaviour - i.e. incongruities that the human being cannot really compensate for. In addition to socialist realism as the state doctrine of art, there was a diverse art scene in the Soviet Union that could be seen in disused churches in the 1980s. These were the artists who became interesting for the art trade in the 1990s. Now even those who profited from the opening are silent, probably also because Russia has remained a totalitarian state at its core, meticulously monitoring its inhabitants and meanwhile also using the revitalised Orthodox state church to anchor its interests in the people with appropriate consecrations. Karl Marx already knew that religion is opium for the people - at least in countries where access to global information is restricted. In some places, religion is also replaced by the party - which ultimately amounts to the same thing.

Stefan Kobel has a review of the year ready for you in the coming weeks. Today it's about the art fairs ...

Corona seems to be spreading rapidly in China after the restrictions were relaxed. Next March, the next Art Basel is to be held in Hong Kong again and the partners of Art Basel are happy to help with travel arrangements. The question is, however, whether the fair, which in recent years has not been able to shine with the physical presence of Western gallery owners (who can afford to stay in a quarantined room for three weeks?) is still attractive in its state environment. Of course, the giant empire has many people who have become wealthy in the meantime. They were also the target for the large galleries that opened representative offices in the old crown colony. But the transfer of renminbi into other currencies is a chapter in itself and the payment for the art purchased at the fair is another. When the fair takes place, it will be interesting to see whether the Convention Centre will have to be dismantled and cleared within 8 hours. In any case, it is astonishing that one has only heard of a few damages from this fair in the past.

Almost all countries report excellent auction results and a best year ever - from Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Munich and Cologne the houses report best overall results or great individual lots. Somehow London fades into the background.

The insurance industry has remained tough and the reinsurers are turning the screw even further because some of them no longer want to insure the war risk of grain exports across the Black Sea. That would leave Russian or Turkish capacity - although MilliRe, as the Turkish state reinsurer, tries to participate in all risks in Turkey anyway. Putin does not mind if Western investments in Russia, Belarus or Ukraine no longer receive conventional insurance cover. He can solve domestic Russian problems and, in case of doubt, the Western investors have already renounced their subsidiaries anyway, Belarus does not play a big role and the denial of insurance cover in Ukraine plays into his hands. My days as a primary insurer are long gone - but the teams I was allowed to work with were always geared towards individual solutions: when the whole market was calling for the revision clause for wind turbines, which would have made the turbines completely uneconomical, we countered this with the concept of condition-based maintenance and thus paved the way for the development of renewable energies on a broad basis in terms of insurance. Transferred to the situation in Ukraine, this means covering at least parts of the risks by insurance means with a win-win opportunity for both sides: Policyholders and insurers - but in the case of the latter, the Chinese walls (sic!) built up by misunderstood compliance between underwriting and claims would have to be torn down.

We are allowed to make wishes for the New Year.

In this spirit, we wish everyone a week of contemplation and reflection on sustainable values that still leave the generations that will come after us the chance to shape them. Health, strength and a positive attitude, despite all adversities, enviers and fighting cocks and fighting chickens around us, should accompany us into the new year.

Stephan Zilkens and the team of Zilkens Fine Art Insurance Broker GmbH in Solothurn and Cologne.

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Dr. Stephan Zilkens | Zilkens Fine Art Insurance Broker