The Louvre Abu Dhabi Is Rocked by Antiquities Trafficking Scandal

Tom Dulat/Getty
Tom Dulat/Getty

In late July, reports emerged that two prominent curators were being held for questioning in connection to a wide-ranging antiquities trafficking scandal that’s affected the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, according to Artnet.

This week, according to Artnet, one of the curators, Jean-François Charnier, was officially charged with supplying charged false provenance information about artworks that found their way into the collections of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, due to efforts Charnier made on behalf of the organization France Muséums. France Muséums declined to comment to The Daily Beast.

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According to Generations Nouvelles, “five objects looted in Egypt purchased by the Louvre Abu Dhabi” are items linked to Charnier’s intervention that are now part of a wide-ranging investigation, in addition to hundreds of ancient artifacts believed to have been trafficked. The Louvre Abu Dhabi did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

In June, the New York District Attorney’s Office seized five other Egyptian antiques from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the broader investigation.

Transactions involving looting antiquities are a global issue, and the practice has yet to be fully curbed by the nations involved, but some are trying: in February, fearing the practices of the Taliban, the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and U.S. Customs and Border Protection placed art and antiquities from Afghanistan under “emergency import restrictions,” but there’s an uphill battle to be fought. In 2020, an Interpol survey found that over 850,000 ancient looted objects had been seized by global law enforcement in that year alone.

France Muséums was formed in 2007 as part of the origins of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and on the international museum consultancy’s website, it says that it “design[s] museums as ecosystems organized around artworks, that are able to interconnect very diverse audiences, cultures and territories.”

Jean-François Charnier and another curator, Noëmi Daucé, have specifically been suspected of looking the other way regarding the approval of the provenance of the items in question; they worked for Jean-Luc Martinez, the former director of the Louvre in Paris, before the latter was suspended by the French government due to his connections to art trafficking. The Louvre declined to comment to The Daily Beast.

Martinez, according to Artnet, was charged with “complicity of gang fraud and laundering” earlier this year. In June, a report by French investigators was released that stated that France Muséums was guilty of “real professional negligence,” “transgression of deontological rules,” and “failures.”

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