THE French government are so concerned about their dwindling share of the global art market that they have come up with a four-point plan to rescue it. They include a measure that effectively calls for the scrapping of due diligence for auctioneers.
Culture Minister Christine Albanel has vowed to launch a “veritable plan for the renewal of the French art market” and has brought FIAC boss Martin Bethenod on board to oversee the initiative.
Speaking in almost apocalyptic terms at the Pompidou Centre on September 24, Madame Albanel described France’s cultural heritage as “a reservoir that is emptying inexorably, with one work imported for very two exported”. She called for:
• Tax breaks and interest-free loans to encourage first-time art buyers.
• An easing of import VAT and of the rate of VAT applied to sales of jewellery and such “acknowledged Paris specialities” as Art Nouveau and Art Deco, so as to encourage such sales to be held in France.
• French auctioneers to “modernise” their approach by developing online auctions, using a single national internet server on the German model, and to be freed of the constraints of the livre de police (the need to record full written details of provenance and description of every single lot offered at auction);
• The creation of an “independent art market authority” to improve statistical and economic analysis of the art market.
Albanel also wants to encourage cultural sponsorship by introducing US-style endowment funds.
Mr Bethenod will consult lawyers, economists and the trade, with a view to introducing a “series of urgent measures” by the end of the year.
Hervé Poulain, Chairman of the National Art Market Council, called the Minister’s proposals “a major step forward for the French art market”, while Hervé Chayette, President of SYMEV (France’s auctioneers’ association), said the Minister’s proposals “fully meet the concerns our auction firms have been expressing for years”.
By Simon Hewitt