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News / April 11, 2016

Louise Blouin Named in Panama Papers

Montreal native Blouin—publisher of Art + Auction, Modern Painters, and Blouin Artinfo—has been named in the Panama Papers, the Toronto Star reports.
Louise Blouin delivers the opening founder's address at the 2015 Blouin Creative Leadership Summit in 2015.  Photo: Louise Blouin Foundation website. Louise Blouin delivers the opening founder's address at the 2015 Blouin Creative Leadership Summit in 2015. Photo: Louise Blouin Foundation website.

Montreal native Louise Blouin—publisher of the art magazines Art + Auction and Modern Painters, as well as the website Blouin Artinfo—has been named in the Panama Papers, the Toronto Star reports.

The Toronto Star’s story on Blouin, which ran on the front page of its Saturday, April 9, edition, states that Blouin’s holdings “included five secretive offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands.”

Blouin, who granted a rare interview for the story, told the Star, “I assume everything is in good standing… I’m not a lawyer and I’m not an accountant. So anything that was structured (in the) British Virgin Islands was done by Deloitte many, many years ago in the United Kingdom.”

In this interview, Blouin refers to real estate as a “hobby,” and says, “It is like my art. I buy and sell art. It is a private hobby.”

As with all those named in the Panama Papers, which were leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca to an international consortium of journalists last year, the question is not whether the companies are legal, but whether they are being used to evade taxes in Blouin’s place of residence, which is currently Switzerland.

The Toronto Star article traces Blouin’s life from Montreal schoolgirl to Auto Trader maven (during which she and then-husband John MacBain made many millions of dollars) to Phillips auction house CEO to London art empresario.

Yet the report also traces several unexplained and dramatic shifts along Blouin’s path—like the closure of her foundation’s 3 Olaf Street facility in London in 2015, which shocked employees, and the fact that “Blouin, her media company and her foundation have been involved in at least 24 New York civil and Supreme Court lawsuits.”

A former Modern Painters editor, Lyra Kilston, who now works at the Getty Museum, is quoted by the Star as saying, “The way she [Blouin] spoke reminded me a bit of Sarah Palin in terms of incoherence and a TED talk in terms of evangelism. She’d fly in with these wild ideas for things like ‘We are going to open an opera in Africa.’ I remember thinking, ‘And you can’t give me an extra $6,000 [in salary bump]’?”

The Wikipedia page on Louise Blouin Media provides more detail on some of its controversies, including the formation in 2010 of a group called WAAANKAA (Writers Angry At Artinfo Not Kidding Around Anymore), which demanded freelance-writing back payments of $18,000. The page also notes that in December 2013, “Artinfo.com abruptly laid off 26 international employees,” and directs readers to a long email, reprinted in the New York Observer, that Blouin sent staff on the subject. And it notes that “in February 2014, the New York Post reported that two former executives were suing Blouin for $250,000 in pay and commissions.”

The Star report concludes with the news that that Blouin “sees expansion to Canada in her future” and states that “this past winter, she and [her partner Mathew] Kabatoff bought a $5.8-million home in Mont Tremblant.”

To read the full Toronto Star report, click here.

 

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor of white settler Canadian (Irish and Ashkenazi) descent. She is also news and special sections editor at Canadian Art and has written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. Sandals welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.