The questions raised during certain acquisitions of the Louvre Abu Dhabi have focused on the risks incurred by museums throughout their acquisition processes. The Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, took the initiative in June 2022 to entrust a mission to three experienced personalities from the world of museums and the art market - Christian Giacomotto, Marie-Christine Labourdette and Arnaud Oseredczuk - to improve the security of acquisitions of national museums.
The mission examined the conditions of movement, entry and exit of cultural property on the national territory, the responsibilities of the various actors of the art market and the acquisition process by the national museums. The latter act as the last link in a complex and singular chain because of the French notion of the uniqueness of national collections, which makes the State their owner and the one responsible for their integrity. The mission questioned the robustness of the procedures followed by French museums and within the art market.
If any acquisition involves risks, the two major issues are the authenticity and provenance of the objects. The question of authenticity gave rise to internal work in the Ministry in 2017, on the occasion of the acquisition by the public establishment of Versailles of fake 18th century furniture; that of the provenance is even more complex and its sensitivity increases with the age of the object; it is more acute for certain archaeological goods and those from conflict zones or looting.
With the agreement of the other ministries concerned, the mission was able to extend its work beyond the Ministry of Culture and its institutions in order to have an overall vision of the issues to be dealt with and to mobilize the competences distributed within the public sphere.
To reach its conclusions, it conducted more than sixty interviews with the heads of the main museums, members of the committees in charge of the enrichment of national collections, professionals from the art market, major collectors, competent administrations and major players in the field of surveillance and repression of trafficking or market regulation.
In submitting the report to the Minister of Culture, the mission emphasized a few strategic orientations: the establishment of a specialized cell at the Ministry of Culture, the creation of an interdepartmental commission for the most sensitive acquisitions, the enrichment of the police book of merchants and commissioners-the increased priority given by the criminal justice system to the illicit trafficking of cultural goods and the establishment of a database of supporting documents for the export of source countries.
The Minister of Culture commends the comprehensive and rigorous work carried out by the three personalities and thanks them for their commitment. On this basis, interdepartmental work can be undertaken to clarify the measures that will be implemented and their timing.
The full report is available here.
The synthesis of the report and the proposals are available here.
The Minister’s mission letter is available here.
The mission launch communiqué is available here.