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Unexplained blocking of proposals for Giacometti Foundation by French art authorities could point to a manipulative strategy

Delays over approving Giacometti Foundation suggest deliberate obstruction, so the only option remaining will be to hand over the collection to the state

Plans for a Giacometti Foundation, now ten years old, have still not been brought to a successful conclusion. The Giacometti Association, as a result, remains convinced that the Ministry of Culture would prefer the large bequest, whose value is estimated at over FFr700 million (£70 million; $113.4 million), to be presented to the government directly.

“Progress is being seriously impeded, and we do not know why”, explains Jean-Robert Bouyeure, lawyer to the Association Alberto et Annette Giacometti, presided over by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roland Dumas.

The bequest by the artist’s widow to the planned foundation on her death in 1994 comprised almost all her possessions: a building in the smart sixth arrondissement of Paris; stocks and shares; jewellery valued at some tens of millions of francs and, most important of all, nearly 700 works of art, themselves estimated at more than FFr700 million. At least a hundred of the sculptures are considered to be of major importance.

In 1995 Roland Dumas, an admirer and collector of Giacometti’s work, was confirmed in the Court of Appeal in Paris as Annette’s executor on behalf of the projected Foundation. In the event of the conditions of the bequest not being met, everything would go to Switzerland to Bruno Giacometti and to the Berthoud family (Annette’s nephews and nieces), moral heirs to the collection according to the same court ruling.

Should this occur, the government would be entitled to 45% of the estate, about FFr400 million, or the equivalent in works in lieu.

The then Minister of Culture, Jack Lang approved of the plan but his successors, the Direction des Musées de France and the Centre Pompidou, with the unfortunate experiences of the failed Fondations Arp, Hartung, Vasarely and others in mind, have made no secret of their opposition to the creation of yet another foundation. The foundation meanwhile has said that several pieces of which there were more than one copy could be sold to increase the donation’s capital. In July 1994 a number of items from the estate were auctioned by Jacques Tajan on the initiative of Roland Dumas, and FFr42 million was raised “to cover lawyers fees and cataloguing.”

The Centre Pompidou felt that, although they were not legally involved, this was the moment to remind the Association Giacometti of their opposition to the project which, in their opinion, “would threaten the preservation of the work”.

The Association Giacometti believes that the Musées de France want to discourage the establishment of a foundation, in favour of a donation in lieu.

The waiting game played by the cultural authorities, may, however, fall foul of the law. The Minister of Justice has made no secret of the fact that in court the procrastination by the Ministries of the Interior and Culture might be deemed to be an “abuse of power”.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Giacometti Association at loggerheads with French art authorities'