Jul 15
The co-presidents of vetting at the Biennale Paris quit over allegations of looted artifacts and furniture forgeries.
The 2018 edition of La Biennale Paris. Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images.

The 2018 edition of La Biennale Paris. Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images.

Two chairmen of the vetting committee of La Biennale Paris resigned unexpectedly just two months before the art fair is set to open in the French capital, taking over the gilded exhibition space inside the Grand Palais. Frédéric Castaing, who is in charge of the National Company of Experts—which provides 40 of the roughly 100 vetters who authenticate works in the biennale—is stepping down from his position. Joining him is Michel Maket, who heads up the Syndicat Fançais of Professional Experts in Works of Art and Collectibles; he will resign his co-president position while remaining part of the vetting team.

The Art Newspaper revealed that the resignations come as criminal investigation continued to plague the annual show, prolonging an unfortunate trend that began in 2016, when a number of exhibitors left after forged royal furniture evaded the vetters and was offered at the biennale as authentic. Now, exhibitors and vetters are up in arms about the inclusion of Geneva- and New York-based Phoenix Ancient Art, which has been accused of trafficking antiquities from Syria; a librarian who was accused of participating in an alleged €850-million ($957.8 million) Ponzi scheme when providing manuscripts to the company Aristophil; and a tribal art dealer whose father was accused of selling fake Jean Prouvé furniture from the 1950s.

All the dealers caught up in criminal investigations declined to comment for TAN’s story. The Syndicat National des Antiquaires, which runs the Biennale, said in a statement quoted by the trade publication that the resignations will have little impact and that “all the other experts will assume the vetting as planned.”

Further Reading: How Forgers and Grifters Have Conned the Art World for Generations