Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Museum Head in a Fix

 According to the Guardian ( Angelique Chrisafis, 'Former head of Louvre charged in Egyptian artefacts trafficking case' Guardian Thu 26 May 2022), a former president of the Louvre museum in Paris has been charged with conspiring to hide the origin of archaeological treasures that may have been taken out of Egypt during the Arab spring uprisings:

Jean-Luc Martinez was charged this week after he was taken in by police for questioning, a French judicial source told Agence France-Presse. Martinez ran the Paris Louvre, the most visited museum in the world, from 2013-21. Martinez, who stepped down as the Louvre’s president last year, serves as an ambassador for international cooperation in the field of heritage. The case threatens to embarrass the French culture ministry and ministry for foreign affairs. Two French specialists in Egyptian art were also questioned this week but released without charge.
This relates to a situation to the purchase in 2016 by the Louvre Abu Dhabi of a pink granite stele depicting the pharaoh Tutankhamun and four other ancient works for €8m (£6.8m). The German-Lebanese gallery owner who brokered the sale was arrested in Hamburg in March and extradited to Paris for questioning in the case. This seems to be part of the investigations prompted by the Kunicki case (still ongoing, it seems).

Reportedly, Martinez has been charged with complicity in fraud and “concealing the origin of criminally obtained works by false endorsement”, possibly involving "turning a blind eye to fake certificates of origin for the pieces, a fraud thought to involve several other art experts" says the article. Martinez previously told The Art Newspaper that he denies any wrongdoing. AI think a lot of eyes in the antiquities trade will be turned to this one, because this is precisely about the difference between "optical due diligence" and actually determining that an object is precisely as it is represented to be, all artefacts need to be verifiably of legal origins, and this part of this case hinges on the thoroughness of doing that verification before making a pronouncement. This accusation will be a blow for Martinez, who in the past has been involved in activities intended to reduce trafficking (here too).

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