France suspends former beleaguered Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez from his post as ambassador, creates task force on art trafficking

Under the heading “Situation of Mr. Jean-Luc Martinez”, the French Ministry of Culture announced that the former director of the Louvre would be placed on temporary leave from his role as ambassador of cultural heritage “pending clarification on his legal status”.

Friday’s announcement follows recent charges against Martinez for alleged complicity in organized fraud and money laundering.

Martinez is involved in a tangled worldwide investigation into works stolen from Egypt, purchased by the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Through his lawyers, he denied any wrongdoing.

Until his suspension last week, Martinez served as France‘s ambassador for international cooperation in cultural heritage, tasked with fighting art trafficking. From 2013 to 2021, he directed the Louvre and the scientific committee of Agency France-Musées, which certified the pedigree of several now suspect works. The Louvre in Paris and the Louvre Abu Dhabi have each brought civil action in this case.

The new French Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, also announced the creation of a working group to examine how illicit cultural objects are acquired and through what “legal framework”, according to a second press release on Friday. These conclusions, which must be delivered before the start of the summer, are expected because “threats to the provenance of cultural property are increasingly sophisticated and complex to thwart”, the ministry said.

In its remarks, the government also “reminds” the public of “France’s firm commitment to the fight against the trafficking of cultural property”, and referred to two recent conferences on the subject, held in February and March this year. . However, in another ironic twist, Martinez himself was among the main speakers at the multilateral meeting in February, which discussed “strengthening European cooperation” against art trafficking.

Indeed, while these conferences were taking place in Europe, French and American investigators were already busy unraveling at least one smuggling ring and their facilitating dealers who sold ancient works worth millions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre Abu Dabi. This net was started by Manhattan DA Antiques Trafficking Unit Chief Matthew Bogdanosand more recently included the confiscation of five Egyptian artifacts from the Met.

To lead the new working group, the French Ministry of Culture has appointed three people: Arnaud Oseredczuk, member of the Ethics Committee of the Ministry of Culture; Married-Christina Labourdette, President of the Château de Fontainebleau; and christian GiacomottoChairman of the Investment Bankers Supervisory Board Gimar and Co. and Chairman of Agency France Museums audit committee. The three will work in tandem with the Ministry’s General Inspectorate of Cultural Affairs.

A receptionist for Giacomotto told Artnet News it was too early for him to comment on the new mission. It is not clear if At Giacomotto’s Login to Agency France-Musées presents a conflict of all kinds.

The group recently made headlines for certifying the authenticity of ancient works of art despite numerous irregularities and false documents linked to their provenance, according to the French daily. Release.

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