On 1st June 2018, the Customs Tariff Commission of the States Council in China issued a notice regarding reductions on MFN tariffs (i.e. Most-Favoured-Nation tariffs) on a selection of consumer goods. If customs authorities implement the new tariff policy efficiently, these changes are effective from 1st July 2018 and will affect about 1,500 different articles of everyday consumer goods including works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques.
Most-Favoured Nation is a term in international relations which refers to a status granted to one nation by another that affects trade between them. This usually takes the form of special policies pertaining to permitted goods, customs duty rates etc. There is no compiled list of countries that enjoy this status in China. Instead, it refers to members of the World Trade Organisation who have bilateral agreements that include reciprocal clauses on customs duties for the goods originating in the respective countries.
So basically, “Hand-painted oil paintings, powder painting and other paintings other than Thangka” are down from 12% to 1%. Thangka paintings, if you are wondering, are the ridiculously beautiful paintings on cloth, native to Tibet, of Buddhist motifs and literature. Christie’s has a nifty guide on them here. Tariffs on Thangkas have been reduced from 12% to 6%.
The main objective of this reduction is to boost the local consumption of these goods. An important note here is that these MFN tariffs are not the same as import tariffs. The MFN tariffs are imposed after the value-added tax, once the good is actually introduced into the domestic market. Chinese buyers will still have to fork out the import value-added tax (Import VAT) of approximately 17% for good from the relevant nations.
The significance of this policy change lies in the size of the Chinese art market as a whole. In the Art Basel 2018 Art Market Report, China narrowly surpassed Britain to become the second-largest art market in the world, with China accounting for 21% of global art market share and the UK accounting for 20%. The United States, however, remains the Goliath of the market, accounting for a total of 42%. These statistics are made available in the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2018.
According to an industry insider in the Shanghai art market, tariff reductions applicable to art have had a catalytic effect on market activity especially since 2012 - "Although the tariff reduction does not give the western works an explosive influx, the art activities in Shanghai have increased in recent years and the auction houses have also introduced more international works compare to the past.”
Adjustments of the import MFN might mistakenly lead some to believe that Chinese government authorities are aligning more to Western markets in their treatment of art. A deeper assessment of national policies reveal this to be unlikely.
The key difference is in the perception of works of art as primarily commodities or consumer goods in China, while in Western nations art is recognised for its other values. This difference can be seen in tax structures in the form of capital gains tax, inheritance tax, and relief on income tax for qualifying philanthropic activities relating to art. These structures are relatively well-established in the West, while China has much catching up to do if it is to transform the role of works of art as nothing more than everyday commodities.
Despite efforts to boost domestic consumption of these category of goods, the treatment of art market is very different in these top economies. The good news is that regardless of how dramatically a trade war plays out between the two superpowers, the effects on the art market are likely to be very undramatic indeed.
By now, you must have come across media coverage of the 2018 Met Gala, held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. On a usual day, I glaze over these articles and posts of red carpet images as nothing more than today’s fashion news, forgotten tomorrow. This time, however, many of the headlines caught my eye about the event’s theme - ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’.
The theme, and how the guests responded to it, was offensive to many commentators.
Some members of the Catholic faith saw it as as disrespectful, despite the Vatican both approving of and loaning pieces for the museum’s exhibition of the same title. Celebrities came under fire for not sticking to the theme of the night. The Art Newspaper’s founding editor and chairman Anna Somers Cocks called for the Met Museum to apologise for involving the Vatican while misrepresenting the whole endeavour. A Vogue article defends the theme by explaining how cultural appropriation and disrespect look decidedly different from what happened at the Met Gala. Phew!
So when I read all of this (albeit begrudgingly because most of the material is poorly written and many headlines were great clickbait) I suddenly got reminded of all the times in art world settings I have been offended for reasons pertaining to culture or religion. [Shout out to Richard and the time we investigated a 2nd Century Vietnamese Dong Son, welded onto a plinth-like structure, with the unqualified gallery assistant telling me it is a basket. A 1-inch thick illustrious basket made of cast Bronze, because 2nd century Vietnam could not figure out a better way to do baskets. #hate]
Yes, when this happens I get on my very high horse and ride it all around the room chattering obnoxiously to my friends about my grievances about misrepresentation. In one line - 'No representation is better than misrepresentation, ugh!’
What is religious art? Is it art created in a religious context, like a fresco for a prestigious church? What if it is instead an oil painting gifted to the church, but it does not have any religious figures or references in it? What about the Elgin Marbles, reminiscent of ancient Greek temples? Those carvings of human rulers of yesteryear who were revered as nothing less than Gods? What about an ephemeral mixed media work made of flowers collected from Hindu temple sites? Or a Qur’an with an exquisite cover that is a family heirloom somewhere in a quiet place far away from seeking eyes, never designed to be exchanged in the modern art market?
I can go on forever, but you get the idea. There are many objects of fine art or collectibles that originally had religious purposes or context, but have been removed from those and valued only for their artistic worth.
Religious art is not an -ism in art history, nor a medium. And thankfully is it also not a market category!
Alright, that is slightly misleading. To be fair, until recent years the most visible parts of the art market (auctions and large art fairs) had been divided quite neatly into the following segments - Old Masters, 19th century art, impressionist and modern art and post-war and contemporary art. Nowadays, a boom in the art market has lead to many more instances of art sales and auctions with categories such as ‘Asian art’, ‘African art’ and other perceptibly marketable labels.
You will, also, find many descriptions of ‘Christian art’, ‘Buddhist art’, and perhaps most popularly ‘Islamic art’. [My favourite art market label is still the most vague ‘Asian art’. Do they have no clue about the cultural vastness of Asia?! In my mind, labelling a work ‘Asian art' is like if I wanted to refer to a healthy adult male blue whale, and used the phrase ‘ocean creature’ hoping it is adequately specific.]
There are many questions the art market can tackle regarding religious art. Do objects found in or purposed for religious practice qualify as religious art, or even art in the first place? Should religious sensitivities play into whether the art can be sold or not? How does the question of looted art get answered in the private art sector, if at all?
This last question peeves me, because unfortunately there are no stakeholders for whom the question holds any gravity - only the shared cultural collective. The buyer wants ownership, the seller or dealers want a strong sale, and authority figures and lowly looters get roped in with the promise of remuneration. In 2016 and 2017, there seemed to be a rise in the number of antiques available in the market that had questionable provenance. In other words, it was not clear if they had arrived in the galleries for sale by determinedly legal means.
India’s struggle with looted religious art is undeniable. Even the arrest of New York based art dealer Subhash Kapoor, a key figure in the criminal network of looted Indian religious art, has not abated the steady outflow of these creations from Indian temples. This is why at many temples the priests keep the idols under lock and key, a common site at common temples across the South Asian subcontinent.
The label ‘religious art’ can therefore only sensibly pertain to the subject of an art work for now. Such a multitude of artworks made in art history can find room under the umbrella of ‘religious art’, that it becomes ineffective as an indicator of what the work stands for.
So anything from a once-functional object in an abandoned church in Eastern Europe, all the way to a contemporary mixed media work (which legitimately could be made of any multitude of things. Think plastic, human hair, metal, found objects, natural pigments, ANYTHING) that has any religious motif, reference or meaning could qualify as religious art.
But hey…if we can have ‘Asian art’…I’m just waiting for the dark days of religious art fairs to begin.
by Richard Van Herzeele
For the Belgian art world, the first quarter of 2018 has been marked by an unfortunate and prominent scandal involving Russian avant-garde paintings in Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts (MSK). 26 Privately owned pieces attributed to such Russian Modernist luminaries as Malevich, Kandinsky, Tatlin, Goncharova, were included in a new display of the permanent collection which opened on 20 October 2017. Controversy erupted in January, when a group of Russian Modernism experts and dealers penned an open letter raising serious doubts over the authenticity of the Ghent pieces.
The main characters in this developing drama are Catherine De Zegher, the Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Igor and Olga Toporovsky, the Russian owners of the pieces, and Sven Gatz, the Flemish Minister of Culture, who initially referred the couple to the museum. The case has rumbled on since the fateful letter and has proven to be fertile ground for art world gossip. However, it also raises some fundamental questions for the international art world beyond Belgium’s borders.
Much of the commentary on the case has focused on the authenticity of the works. Are they forgeries, as the experts suspect, or instead an extraordinary collection of works made by some of the finest Russian avant-gardists? Sadly, it seems this question will remain unanswered. A recent police search of the Ghent museum placed the pieces still in the museum’s depot, although earlier reports said the pieces had been returned to the owners after being taken down. The Toporovsky’s had already announced their own authenticity investigation, but whether conducting it is still possible, now the depot has been sealed off by the police, and whether its results would be trustworthy in the first place, is anybody’s guess.
But there is another, perhaps more fundamental, question at the heart of this story: was proper due diligence conducted?. The term ‘due diligence’ is often bandied about in the art world, and essentially refers to the investigative steps and procedures one must undertake prior to buying, selling, exhibiting or loaning a work, to ascertain such can be lawfully done [For further reading, check out this book]. When ascertaining that proper due diligence was conducted, the authenticity of the pieces is of relatively lesser importance. While madam De Zegher would, in layman’s terms, more easily “get away with it”, if the pieces were indeed by Malevich’s, Goncharova’s or Kandinsky’s hand, their authenticity would not necessarily entail that proper due diligence was performed. Poorly vetted art can be authentic, too.
The city of Ghent has now hired Ernst & Young to perform an audit of the museum’s practices to the tune of 44,800 Euros (GBP 39,140.40). The firm will investigate whether the museum has acted in accordance with international guidelines and international reference practices such as the ICOM Code of Ethics. Additionally, relevant staff members of the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts and representatives of several internationally recognised reference museums will be interviewed during the firm’s investigation.
Museums across Europe are increasingly asked to be economically self-reliant while at the same time they are faced with Departments of Culture’s budgets being cut. This drives museums to look to the private market to help stage the blockbuster exhibitions they need to make the required revenue. This, alongside the pressures of time, creates a climate that is not always conductive to the performance of due diligence.
As such, the Ernst & Young audit is a welcome development, as is any effort to further clarify due diligence and highlight its importance. Although the ICOM Code of Ethics and other reference practices have done important work in establishing quality due diligence standards, this case, and other recent cases, make it look like their message has not yet reached all corners. It is important that it does, lest more scandals erupt in the future, besmirching museums’ reputations and eroding the public’s trust. It is essential that museums, as well as other art market players, remain aware of the requirements of due diligence and the consequences of failing to adhere to them.
The results of the audit, which are expected to be released in May, should prove essential reading.
Legal jargon, especially in the English language, has perplexed and misled many trained lawyers, let alone those that have never undertaken legal scholarship in their lives. Phrases like ‘obstruction of justice', ‘circumstantial proximity' and ‘act of god' have found a place in popular culture, and hopefully in the process a larger group of people have developed a basic understanding of how they operate.
Unfortunately, even the most educated and well-read individual can fall victim to this one ’scam’ - the supposedly legal operations of MULPOR Company S.A.
Ladies and gentlemen, check out the website https://www.inter-fairs.com/. Designed to look like it could be an established enterprise’s landing page, this is an online database that provides a fraction of the same information that is publicly available on official fair websites.
The ‘about us’ tab is where you find the following content -
The International Fair Directory is the largest international platform offering a global overview of the current scene of fairs and exhibitions. The platform www.inter-fairs.com provides continuously updated information on thousands of international and local fairs, millions of associated companies as well the organizers themselves.
The company accesses the list of exhibitors that is made publicly available on official fair websites. This includes the list of galleries at art fairs worldwide. It then contacts the specific exhibitors by post, with a single letter and a fillable form. A cursory reading could lead someone to believe the letter is either from the official fair team, or an organisation with an established working relationship with the fair. However, there are numerous disclaimers that tell the reader otherwise. Any fair exhibitors who submit the form, wittingly or unwittingly become legally bound to pay EUR 1271 or EUR 1212 per year, as specified in the (VERY) fine print.
These two documents have been assembled by someone who knows how to take advantage of trends and practices in corporate culture, and perhaps in advertising too. The disclaimers that allow the company to survive in Uruguay, which is where it is registered, are just as elusive to the average reader as the fine print that specifies the fees.
It may seem clear here where you have been alerted to the reality before you read the document, but in the setting where these letters are delivered, the vulnerability of the exhibitor, who acts as a consumer, should not be underestimated.
Those running the website do not target any specific industry. Whether its tech, luxury goods or even raw materials, the company may reach out via post and follows up through calls where they pose as part of the official fair team, or an affiliate.
Some fair organisers have noted and highlighted the danger to their exhibitors in the past, but the company has survived for years now without falling foul of the law - simply through the art of legal jargon. In this instance, it is worth recognising formatting as ‘jargon' even though it is different from the written word.
My favourite part was the follow-up call I received at work, from someone I can only suppose is a frustrated lady whose current job scope involves calling fair exhibitors who are unresponsive to their posted mail. I hope her career path improves dramatically, and soon.
Singapore Art Week just happened, and it gave me something to contemplate about young persons’ curiosity about the art world and art market. Both in Singapore and across the world, opportunities to appreciate art as a luxury good or investment product can sometimes be limited to those in the highest income brackets. Many of us experience art fairs, biennales and exhibitions. However, most platforms and spaces for buying and selling art remain playgrounds for the ultra-rich.
I had already reconciled this as a reality both abroad and in Singapore, when I received an update from Feral Horses, the art investment platform looking to change things up.
“ Feral Horses is the art stock exchange to buy and trade shares of contemporary artworks directly from artists and art galleries. The team is raising funds through Seedrs for its new proposition of micro art investments. ”
Here is what that means for my fellow millennial art gallery visitors: When you visit an art gallery partnering with Feral Horses, hold your smartphone camera over the artwork's tag. You will get redirected to the Art Stock Exchange, where you can get in-depth data about the artwork and artist, and the option to buy shares of the artwork almost instantly. The onus is on you, then, to manage your portfolio of shares and investments.
Feral Horses rents out the artworks that they manage, and (as shared by the team) this approach has two major outcomes.
Firstly, the works are exhibited rather than hidden in storage facilities. The works gain visibility in the market, and this directly has an impact on art market valuation.
Secondly, investors receive 'dividends' from this rental activity, which creates a healthy system of patronage and market activity.
I am a fan of research, innovation and enterprise in the art industry. It is tremendously exciting because it contradicts the art world's reputation for being old, stuffy and resistant to change.
Here are some reasons to consider art as an investment product, straight from the Horse's (haha!) mouth -
1) Art as an investment is an opportunity to invest in something you share values with - sustainability, or womens' rights, perhaps. Whatever the oeuvre of the artist may be about
2) It is a big learning opportunity - before you invest in anything, you have to study the asset and conduct due diligence. You get to study something you are interested in, which is an underrated opportunity for self-development
3) If your disposable income has kept you from building a serious art collection, micro art investments provide an interesting compromise. The solution of investing in shares can bring you closer to that reality, without first discussing a myriad of issues surrounding art collection management (like interior, taxes, insurance etc.)
4) Art is a high-risk and high-potential asset, and investing small sums over a time period can lead to a stronger, more diversified portfolio.
As a millennial who is looking to make sense of the big bad world of investment, being risk-averse comes naturally. We have seen multiple instances of economic crashes due to failed markets. I think this is a very clever and realistic way to address a large market gap, for people who wish to actively participate in the market but do not have the same disposable income (yet) that visible art collectors begin collecting with.
Galleries often create marketing or business strategies based on their understanding of an individual's purchasing power. How much this impacts their interaction with a visitor or prospective client, of course, varies wildly for each gallery across the globe. If a large number of galleries get on board with this initiative, the practice of measuring how deep a visitor's pockets go will be less relevant, and millennials may find a newfound confidence when visiting their favourite contemporary art galleries.
A couple of weeks ago, I joined a gallery team in Singapore with a strong presence in Asia. It is wonderful to be back home and learning about Asian artists who predominantly appeal to the culturally vast Asian community.
One Asian artist, however, defies all odds by being all at once popular in the East and West, a prolific creator of works, and an aged woman. Her current popularity is fueled by trends like feminism, Instagram art and greater attention to mental health. Yayoi Kusama is #55 on ArtReview's Power 100 List in 2017, and there is little to question that ranking (only perhaps why the ranking is not higher still).
On a personal note, many friends, family and acquaintances are fond of reaching out to me to satiate their curiosity about the fine art market. What motivates their desire to engage becomes obvious with the one remark; 'Hm..I can make these dots myself, can't I?'
You can perhaps predict my reaction to this. It is something along the lines of 'No you naive, overconfident chap, you bloody can't.' There is plenty of (growing) literature on the mechanisms of the fine art market. Derived from them, below is a list of things I wish I was calm enough to give instead as my reaction:
1. For those who form opinions of fine art while scrolling their smartphones: It is important to see works of art, including Instagram-trending ones, in person. This is because materials and materiality, scale, how your eye sees colour, visual details and non-visual components like context are part of an artwork.
2. If you have seen them in person, gain an understanding of the technical skills required to produce a piece. Artists must gain access to the right materials, perhaps work with engineers or manufacturers and often involve specialized conservators and restorers.
3. Kusama specifically has gone through an incredible process that informs her artistic expression. Here is a good read: 10 things to know about Yayoi Kusama. When you look at any other work or even a well-attempted reproduction, you are not faced with the same expression or artistic intention.
4. There is a sophisticated and elusive market mechanism that attaches value to these works of art, which allows artworks to behave as commodities. If you are interested in how that works, do not confuse it with the ability of the artwork to be an experience and expression at the same time. It can, and does, have the characteristics of both.
At the moment, Kusama is the recipient of an incredible amount of attention and rapport online, on social media platforms, and in the international art market that buys and sells her works of art of high net worth. Many find themselves curious about why our economy and society rewards and recognizes Kusama on these platforms.
Simply going to view a work will not give you the resources you need to understand 'Why is this artwork more visible/important than others?' Look instead for the answer to 'What is Kusama trying to capture, communicate, channel in her work?' and 'Do I have a personal response to her expression?'
By finding the answer to the second question, perhaps you will find yourself closer to answering questions about our collective approach towards reward and recognition too.
I am currently doing a stint at a local art gallery in Singapore, and one of the projects I am working on is a new exhibition in the gallery space. It is all very exciting, but it has in some ways removed my rose-tinted glasses about working with artists.
Talking to artists and working with them in an art business framework can be challenging due to the diverse works and needs of each artist. To put together a successful exhibition, a strong and clear art business framework is required. Between galleries and artists, this takes the form of a consignment agreement.
When an artist consigns a work to a gallery, he or she transfers the work to the gallery’s possession but retains legal title to the work. Usually, the terms specify a period for this consignment (perhaps exhibition dates). They also specify that the consignment is for the purpose of sale of the work.
Agreements on average (and as a concept) are marginally more complex in the art industry; the history of the Western art market relying on the gentleman’s handshake is well-documented. Check out Titia Hulst, A History of the Western Art Market: A Sourcebook of Writings on Artists, Dealers, and Markets for more on the topic. You might think a gentleman’s handshake is less complex in practice than a document filled with legal jargon. But in reality, the art industry is riddled with the complications that can arise from relying on a handshake or similar inadequate methods of reaching an agreement about a complex project.
The focus of this critical observation is large cities where the art market as we know it today is better established. However, it may now be more of an observation of the art market of the past. As the market matures, technical aspects like the consignment agreement become more sophisticated and at the forefront of market activity. Younger cities that aspire to be players in the global art market ecosystem would benefit from paying attention to details of such agreements and steering clear of the laissez-faire practices that the art world has been notorious for.
Ultimately, as shared by my boss, the idea is that the consignment agreement should provide a framework for the entire business relationship. Will it will remain highly individualised and tailored to each project, or veer towards a ‘standard format’ of terms and conditions as the size of the art market and its transparency changes? We may need many more years of observational data before we can find the answer.
In the recent months, I have been working on a collaboration with Vishal Kumar here in London.
Vishal is a data analyst at Sotheby’s auction house, and also a data artist. As artist and writer, we are producing co-art together on different topics relevant to the art market.
I interviewed Vishal on the topic of data art. This answers some questions that our supporters, patrons and peers have asked so far. For anyone interested in the topic, read the interview for an introduction to data art, from a data artist himself.
M: What is data art?
V: Data art is the process of creating works of art using computer coding, data and design. It can be digital or physical. Static or dynamic and interactive. Typically, an algorithm is written and then the algorithm is run through a software to generate the work of art.
M: What makes a data artist different from other artists?
V: Not much at all. The creative process across all media and methods is the same. An artist has an idea, a theme of interest, and the determination to improve and excel their craft. An artist may use one medium or a range of media to create their art work. I see the code and the data as my medium and the screen as my canvas. I had an idea in mind, the last theme I explored (with you) was “symmetry”, and then I created my work of art using my craft. The key difference between me and other artists is that I use data and code to express my ideas, another artist may use oil paint, watercolour, or printmaking to do the same thing.
Another way to think about it is this: an algorithm is a set of rules to execute an operation. I write an algorithm with code which tells the computer a set of commands to make the data art. A print maker follows a very similar chain of rules and commands to make a linocut, for example: first cut and chisel the lino; choose what colours you want; apply the ink with a roller; put the whole thing on a piece of paper under a rolling machine; then, press; finally, the work of art is made.
M: What value can data art add to our daily lives?
V: Data art can add value to people’s lives by helping them realise that code is not boring! Also, I think data art can help individuals understand the power of code and how it has become a vital part of our society.
One of my main missions for creating art with code and data is to communicate to my audience that computer programming can be creative, flexible and playful. There is certainly a preconception that coding (or the like - software development and IT, for example) is a nerdy and boring practice, which serves a functional or operational purpose. I have demonstrated that this is not true. I want to shift people’s focus from the boring to the more creative, playful and malleable aspects of the code.
M: What is the most challenging bit of being a data artist?
V: There are a wide variety of computer coding languages, syntaxes and frameworks. The majority of those cannot be used to create data art. There are only a handful of ones which can. You need to able to identify the whole landscape and then choose which languages and frameworks you want to use. My advice would be not to do all of them at once. Even then, sometimes you have to have a very particular piece of code installed on your computer to make the whole thing work! Once you have installed the framework or software of choice, you then have to be able to write an algorithm with code to create the data art.
All of this is quite challenging and can be completely daunting to someone starting out. I definitely got frustrated and gave up on some methods, but I love problem solving and I had the persistence to make it all work. For the record, I currently use Processing, P5.js and D3.js, however, I am also interested in OpenFrameworks.
M: Does knowing coding or any other specialised discipline help me understand data art?
V: I believe you don’t need to know coding in order to understand data art. I don’t know how to play the violin or the piano but when I listen to classical music or contemporary jazz I still understand the art: I get the rhythm, I feel the beat, I sense the emotion. It’s the role of the artist to use the instrument in such a way so that the audience can understand the work of art. But, certainly, having specialised knowledge of coding will help you understand how the data art was created, but not always what it is trying to represent.
If you wish to find out more about Vishal and my collaboration, stay tuned for our Patreon page.
Last month, I attended the 2017 conference of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art in Amelia, Italy. Four of us shared a quaint and beautiful farmhouse on an olive farm as our accommodation for the trip.
On Friday evening before the weekend conference sessions, ARCA hosted a cocktail reception.
We attended the event and when we got back to our accommodation close to midnight, the electricity was not working, nor were the water taps. We were in a dark farmhouse on our first trip abroad together, in an unfamiliar and rural place and after a successful cocktail reception. Bless us.
We took a quick look at the fuse box inside the house using our phone torchlights, but that did not resolve the issue.
I am and always have been exceptionally lazy. Sunrise was around 6am in Italy during the week of the summer solstice, and our first proper day of this academic conference began the next morning. I thought to myself, 'we have enough bottles of water and torchlights functioning on our phones to go to bed, get up early and attempt to solve the issue in daylight.'
As it turns out, my friends are nowhere near as lazy when trying to solve problems. Kayla was attempting to get to the larger fuse box towards the farm entrance while Joanna was trying to contact the farmhouse owners whose place we were renting. I cannot recall what Richard was doing, but I remember him pondering beside me on the porch briefly before moving about the estate. Additionally, the wifi had not been working which complicated the matter of finding solutions or contacting people. Mind you, I had not moved from the porch the whole while.
This continued for (I think) half an hour without progress, so I just went up to quickly get changed. I got ready for bed and came back to wait on the front porch in case I could be called on/be of some use.
Perhaps they were inspired by my pyjamas or perhaps the mosquito bites started to itch, but thankfully everyone called it a night very soon after. Surely enough, our AirBnB hosts messaged Joanna to say that we must flick a switch in the large fuse box near the farm entrance. That fuse box had a padlock that clicked open with a tug. It was only placed there as a superficial deterrent. There was also a wasp’s nest inside that large box, which Kayla braved for us all. 'My mom is deathly allergic to bees and wasps, so I'm pretty used to dealing with them...little bastards.' - Kayla
Our first morning at the conference was salvaged, but imagining what could have happened with wasps, mosquitos and no electricity or wifi at midnight has made this anecdote that much easier to recount.