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Alberto Giacometti

Archives seized from Giacometti Association following family's wishes

Archives, boxes of drawings and documents pertaining to court procedures were confiscated by bailiffs, following the freezing of their assets last year

On 6 July archives were seized from the Paris-based Giacometti Association, at the request of the Giacometti family; then on 30 July the Giacometti Association brought a counter procedure demanding some of the material back. It claimed that some of the material taken was not that referred to in the initial court order.

The Giacometti Association was created in 1989 by Giacometti’s widow, Annette. Since her death in 1993 the executor of her will, Roland Dumas, and the Association’s director, Mary Lysa Palmer, have been locked in court battles over the Association, which controls a collection worth an estimated £90 million ($126 million).

The Association has not obtained the go-ahead to turn the association itself into a foundation, and in July 2000 the government froze all its assets. All major loans were halted and the group put under the control of a judicial administrator.

In the latest chapter in the saga, archives and boxes of drawings were taken. But the bailiffs did not just remove the archives stipulated in the order, but many others, among them files relating to previous lawsuits involving the auctioneer Jacques Tajan and ex-government minister Roland Dumas.

According to the administrator, Ms Hélène Da Camara (who was nominated by Roland Dumas), the archives were seized because experts assessing the collection had been denied access to them, making their task impossible. They were attempting to divide plaster models between the artist’s heirs. As these can be used to cast the 12 examples of a so called “original” bronze, their potential value is huge.

The files concerning Mr Dumas and Mr Tajan relate to the auction of Giacometti sculptures to pay off estate tax in 1994. According to the after-sale report, one piece was unsold, and yet it turned up in Switzerland two years later, having allegedly been bought by the dealer Joe Nahmad after the sale. In France it is illegal to change the records after a sale.

Mr Dumas, once Foreign Minister and subsequently head of France’s highest court, the Conseil Constitutionel, is currently appealing a guilty verdict in an unrelated multi-million pound corruption case involving the state-owned oil company Elf Aquitaine.

A major Giacometti exhibition travels this month from the Kunsthaus Zurich to the Museum of Modern Art, New York (11 October-8 January).

Originally appeared in 'Giacometti archives seized'