Zones and zoning: Linking the geographies of freeports with ArtTech and financial market making

Sabine Dörry, Markus Hesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Freeports and special economic zones (SEZs) are established policy tools to attract foreign investment at specific locations, based on the de-coupling of sovereignty and territory. As a result, they emerged not only in developmental contexts, but also in tax havens and financial centres. Recently, freeports and SEZs have shifted from responding to global competition for spaces best suited to attract tangible manufacturing to responding to competition for spaces with best conditions to enable value extraction and wealth shielding. We develop the argument on the emerging industry of ArtTech and new ‘fine art freeports’ that thrive on two core social practices: fracturing property rights to enhance financial liquidity and trading activity in highly exclusive fine-art markets, and offshoring – or zoning – to exploit freeport-facilitated relations for market making and rent-seeking. Besides such practices to make and game markets, freeports supply important physical infrastructure for fine-art technical and custody services that precondition any form of value creation. As such, freeports are important spaces for policy experimentation. Contrary to the conventional belief about free zones in general and freeports in particular, however, their economic impact remains limited. We explain this by conceptualising freeports as ‘zones’ defined or designed by specific processes of ‘zoning’ that link their multiple geographies. We conclude that freeports are no sites of exception but spaces that help legitimise novel institutional and economic arrangements emergent in the economy at large.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Freeports
  • financial market infrastructure
  • policies of exception
  • new economic spaces
  • financial capitalism
  • FinTech
  • Future Finance

    Dörry, S., 12 Jan 2024, Contemporary Economic Geographies: Inspiring, Critical and Plural Perspectives. Johns, J. & Hall, S. M. (eds.). 1 ed. Bristol: Bristol University Press, p. 338-351

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