A fierce fracas has broken out in the gilded world of French decorative arts. France’s Mobilier National—an institution created in the 17th century that restores historical tapestries and furniture and supplies furnishings for Versailles and the Élysée Palace—was recently the subject of a less-than-favorable government assessment.
Auditors concluded that Mobilier National needs to be “radically reformed” after finding large amounts of alcohol in its workshops, and noting that many workers were frequently absent and absconded with workplace tools so they could “moonlight” by working on personal projects. The audit also found that some 7,800 objects in Mobilier National’s care (roughly 10% of its total inventory) could not be accounted for. It concluded that “a very large part of the collections exposed to the risk of theft,” according to passages quoted by the French news agency AFP.
Mobilier National Director Hervé Lemoine contested the audit’s results, saying it contained “grave and grotesque factual errors.” He claimed that the audit “highlighted two or three cases, which already had been identified and sanctioned, to heap opprobrium on the 350 people” employed by Mobilier National.
Instead, Lemoine blamed any perceived shortcomings on chronic underfunding of Mobilier National, which, he said, “had only a third of the administrative and support staff we need to do our job properly restoring and creating furniture for official residences.”