Showing posts with label Pierre Bergé & Associés. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pierre Bergé & Associés. Show all posts

June 23, 2020

The Cost of Trinkets: France detains five art market actors in relation to a network believed to be trafficking in conflict antiquities


Between Monday and Tuesday, law enforcement authorities in France have detained five individuals, bringing them in for questioning in relation to a network law enforcement believes to be involved in the trafficking in antiquities from conflict, and post-conflict, countries that have subsequently been laundered onto the French ancient art market.  These detentions come following a lengthy investigation which began in July 2018 and has been carried out by France's Central Office to Combat Trafficking in Cultural Property (OCBC) and the Central Office for the Suppression of Serious Financial Crime (OCRGDF).  Parts of the investigation were also coordinated with the Investigative Judge of the JUNALCO (National Jurisdiction Against Organised Crime) and the Paris prosecutor's office.  

Among those arrested are one director and one in-house art expert affiliated with Pierre Bergé & Associés, a French auction house that specialises in modern and contemporary art, design, photography, editions, and antiquities. The three remaining arrestees have been reported to be: a former curator, who once worked at the Musée du Louvre, a renowned left bank Parisian gallery owner,  and another art dealer.  

While none of the people taken into custody this week have been named, this is not the first time that Pierre Bergé' has come to the attention of illicit trafficking researchers.  Christophe Kunicki, who brokered the sale of the looted Mummiform Coffin inscribed in the name of Nedjemankh to the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been listed in Pierre Bergé's catalogs as their archaeology expert as far back as 28 March 2008.  Likewise, French archaeologists have identified that Pierre Bergé & Associés is one of three companies who have sold suspect deities and funeral portraits originating from Cyrene, the ancient Greek and later Roman city near present-day Shahhat in Libya.  These pieces came to maket via the three firms through Hôtel Drouot auction house in Paris between 2007 and 2015.  

The five detainees potentially face charges ranging from receipt of stolen goods, money laundering, forgery and fraud related to antiquities illegally removed from countries including Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.  This case underscores once again that the art market and armed conflict are grimly connected through the art market's profit from the laundering and sale of conflict antiquities.  

And while these individuals may or may not go to jail, ancient art buyers are not getting the message that their purchase of such antiquities serves to incentivize those in the supply chain and enables war in countries of conflict.  By buying conflict antiquities without concern for the object's licit origin, they, as well as the looters, middlemen, and elegant auction houses, each play a role in perpetuating crime in un marché avec des fruits bien pourris (a market with rotten fruit).

By: Lynda Albertson