Louvre Abu Dhabi Becomes Civil Party in Trafficking Investigation

  • Publish date: Friday، 17 June 2022
Louvre Abu Dhabi Becomes Civil Party in Trafficking Investigation

Along with the Louvre, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has also decided to become a civil party in the criminal investigation into possible antiquities trafficking.

“Following the revelations in the media, the Emirati museum wants access to the investigation files, to establish the facts and act accordingly”, the Louvre Abu Dhabi's Parisian lawyer Jean-Jacques Neuer told The Art Newspaper.

This comes after the case of possible trafficking of Egyptian antiquities, since the indictment of former Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez, is fast becoming a matter of state business.

On 6 June, the Swiss collector Jean-Claude Gandur filed a suit for the “forged provenance" of a Fayum portrait he bought in November 2014 from the Phoenix Ancient Art Gallery (Geneva, New York), which is owned by the Aboutaam brothers. According to information revealed to The Art Newspaper, the portrait was sold to the gallery by the main suspect in the case, Roben Dib, for €355,000 in November 2013 at the Pierre Bergé auction house in Paris, where his alleged accomplice Christophe Kunicki was working as an expert. It was presented with the same provenance in the 1930s as the “Tutankhamun stele“ sold by Kunicki to the Louvre Abu Dhabi: a Cairo dealer named Habib Tawadros and a German navy officer named Johannes Behrens. “We believe that this Behrens has never existed or, at least, never been a collector,“ Gandur said to the French daily Le Monde newspaper, which broke the story.

A spokesperson for Phoenix Ancient Art Gallery says: “There are indications from reading what has been circulating in the press about the Egyptian market in France that the provenance provided to our gallery by the auction house Pierre Bergé and its expert Mr Kunicki was fabricated by a consignor identified in the press as Robin Dib. Such outcome, if verified, would unite Phoenix Ancient Art with the Metropolitan Museum and the Louvre Abu Dhabi in a growing list of possible victims of sales made by Mr Dib and his circle. Phoenix Ancient Art is in consultation with its legal counsels and relevant authorities and reserves all rights and remedies, and waives none.”

December, the Emirati museum’s license to use the name of Louvre was extended by ten years to 2042, adding €165m to the €1bn revenues foreseen for the Louvre.

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