On June 7, Laurent Kraemer of the venerable Kraemer Gallery and Bill Pallot of Didier Aaron & Cie were taken into custody in Nanterre (Hauts-de- Seine) as part of an ongoing investigation by French police into the fabrication of 18th century furniture.
At the time of going to press Kraemer had been released on bail and Pallot was understood to have been detained. Both face charges relating to the sale of copies to the French national collection.
Kraemer was quick to respond with a statement denying all allegations: “The house of Kraemer intends to show that it has never fabricated any furniture. If it turns out the gallery sold fakes so good they have duped the best experts in the world it was done so unwittingly. In this case [we] should be considered a victim.”
The presence of forged French furniture in the marketplace – the subject of innuendo for some years – was first raised officially in 2014 at the conference of the Compagnie Nationale des Experts (CNE).
In June 2015 the art crime squad OCBC raided the premises of Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré dealer Jean Lupu.
Lupu, accused of fabricating 18th century furniture using old timber, bronze and counterfeit stamps, has been temporarily excluded from the CNE. His company closed in February.
The news of the arrests – it is understood others could take place in the coming days – came on the day before the CNE conference where Colonel Ehrhart of the OCBC was among the guest speakers.
In response to coverage in the French press, the association said it would take legal action against those members found to have broken the law.
Frédéric Castaing, president of the CNE and Dominique Chevalier, president of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires (SNA), issued a brief joint statement saying: “We will not hesitate if the need arises to take the appropriate internal measures and will instigate legal proceedings to protect the interests of our membership.”
The impending scandal comes in the wake of the Cols Rouges trial (that reaches its verdict on September 6) and just months in advance of the new-look annual Biennale des Antiquaires on September 10-18.
The Biennale has promised revisions to the vetting committee under former president of the Louvre, Henri Loyrette.
Laurent Kraemer runs Gallery Kraemer with his brother Olivier from a discreet townhouse on the edge of Monceau Parc in Paris. The gallery celebrated its 140th anniversary last year with a stand at Masterpiece.
Bill Pallot, a specialist in seating furniture and a vetter at Masterpiece in 2015, has been with Didier Aaron & Cie for more than 20 years.
He was a member of the scientific committee of the exhibition 18th century, Birth of Design, Furniture Masterpieces 1650-1790 at Versailles in 2014-15 and one of the editors of the accompanying catalogue.
Didier Aaron, with galleries in New York, London and Paris, were unavailable for comment but a spokesman told ATG that they would be publishing an appropriate response to the allegations in due course.