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France's Culture Ministry issues report on museums acquisition policies to curb art racketeering

France’s Culture Ministry has issued a new report ordering museums to tighten their policies after questions were raised about acquisitions by the Louvre Abu Dhabi and a crackdown on art racketeering. The authors of the report include art market experts Christian Giacomotto, Marie-Christine Labourdette and Arnaud Oseredczuk. Photo courtesy of M. Habibi/France Culture Ministry/<a href="https://twitter.com/MinistereCC/status/1594696340059336705/photo/1">Twitter</a>
France’s Culture Ministry has issued a new report ordering museums to tighten their policies after questions were raised about acquisitions by the Louvre Abu Dhabi and a crackdown on art racketeering. The authors of the report include art market experts Christian Giacomotto, Marie-Christine Labourdette and Arnaud Oseredczuk. Photo courtesy of M. Habibi/France Culture Ministry/Twitter

Nov. 24 (UPI) -- France's Culture Ministry has issued a new report recommending that museums tighten their policies after questions were raised about acquisitions by the Louvre Abu Dhabi and a crackdown on art racketeering.

The report comes after Jean-Luc Martinez, the former director of the Louvre, and curator Francois Charnier were indicted and charged with "complicity of gang fraud and laundering" after acquiring suspected looted antiques from Egypt, which were purchased for $50 million.

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France's Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak commissioned three art experts -- Christian Giacomotto, Marie-Christine Labourdette and Arnaud Oseredczuk -- to improve the security of museum acquisitions, the ministry said in a press release on Monday.

Some of the recommendations made by the report include the creation of a joint task force between government ministries and local law enforcement officials specializing in provenance and acquisitions as well as expanded access to digitized police records for those selling pieces of art

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.Other recommendations included the creation of training and education programs within the Culture Ministry on studying the provenance of pieces of art. Provenance is a word that describes a trace of how a piece of work became acquired by an individual or institution as it changed hands over the years.

Giacomotto serves as a member of the board of the National Museums Authority and is the chairman of the auditory committee of the Association France Museums, which was "instrumental in the establishment" of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Labourdette has served as the president of the City of Architecture and Heritage, an agency under the ministry of culture that promoted French-style architecture in France and abroad. She has served as the president of the medieval castle of Château de Fontainebleau since 2021.

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Oseredczuk is an auditor specializing in asset management and regulation who has served as the general administrator of the Musées d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie from 2017 to 2020.

Together, the three experts interviewed more than 60 art professionals before coming up with 42 recommendations to address problems such as money laundering in the art world.

"If any acquisition involves risks, the two major issues are the authenticity and provenance of the objects," France's Culture Ministry said in the news release.

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"The question of authenticity gave rise to internal work at the ministry in 2017, on the occasion of the acquisition by the public establishment of Versailles of false 18th-century furniture; that of provenance is even more complex and its sensitivity increases with the age of the object; it is more acute for certain archaeological objects and those coming from zones of conflict or looting."

The experts said in the report that certain acquisitions by the Louvre Abu Dhabi "highlighted the risks" incurred by museums during the acquisition process and that officials in charge of acquisitions "remain insufficiently trained" in such risks.

"Competence in provenance research, a concern relatively recent, is not clearly identified and mobilized in the acquisition chains of museums," the report reads.

A Culture Ministry spokesperson told ArtNet News that it has already started to move forward with some of the recommendations made in the report.

The Antiquities Coalition, an international group that campaigns against "cultural racketeering" and the illicit trade of ancient art and artifacts, called on the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to "take strong, concrete and immediate action" after the French report was commissioned in June.

"It is critical that the Met take steps to regain public trust. The museum is now setting the standard for what not to do on the U.S. art market, when it should be the gold standard for due diligence and transparency," the Antiquities Coalition said in a statement at the time.

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"We urge the Met to follow France's example and put together a task force of distinguished experts to uncover why these ethical and legal lapses happened, and more importantly, ensure they never happen again."

The Antiquities Coalition's statement also came after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced that his office had seized five Egyptian sculptures worth more than $3 million from the Met.

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