Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

September 20 2017

Video: Euronews

In the FT, Gareth Harris alerts us to some sweeping changes to the vetting system at the Biennale Paris, in response to a scandal of fake antique furniture, some of which was bought by the French state for many millions of Euros (see above). The vetting changes include:

Since the scandal, the SNA [the antique dealers association which runs the fair] has taken a belt-and-braces approach, setting up an overarching vetting committee overseen by two independent professional bodies, the Compagnie Nationale des Experts (CNE) and the Syndicat Français des Experts Professionnels en Oeuvres d’Art et Objets de Collection (SFEP).

Divesting the SNA of vetting duties at Biennale Paris is a canny move. The system by which its exhibitors, who all belong to the SNA, had sat across various sub-vetting committees at the Biennale had come in for some criticism. The French online publication Le Quotidien de l’Art reported, for instance, on an abuse of power at the heart of the previous vetting body.

Under the new system, 100 experts are split into groups of three to five according to specialty. “Under the new rules, exhibitors will not sit on the committees, thereby avoiding any conflicts of interest,” says Michel Maket, president of the SFEP.

Quite a few art fairs still operate vetting systems run, either largely or entirely, by fellow dealers. On one level this makes sense, for whether we like it or not it is within the trade that we find the most expertise in some fields. But of course, then you get into the question of commercial rivalry and intra-dealer politics. One hears stories of pictures being approved by vetting committees when they appear on certain dealers stands, but rejected when they appear on others. The situation becomes especially difficult when you have pictures that are owned by multiple dealers, all with a part share. So on balance I think it's probably better that vetting is, as the Biennale Paris are doing, placed entirely in the hands of academics and museum staff.

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