Four artworks vanish from walls of French parliament

Police investigation launched after objects discovered missing during annual inventory

French police have launched an investigation to trace four works of art that have vanished from the walls of the Assemblée Nationale in Paris.

The objects were discovered missing at the end of last year after an annual inventory by the state agency that is responsible for keeping track of works of art and furniture in public buildings.

The assembly president’s office confirmed a report in the Canard Enchainé newspaper, adding that the works had been “hanging on office walls” in the lower house of parliament before they were removed. “Searches carried out up until now have not led us to finding them,” a spokesperson said.

The missing works are a piece by the Greek artist Takis, which belongs to France’s National Contemporary Art Fund, plus paintings by French modern artists Hervé Télémaque and Richard Texier, and an engraving by an unknown artist.

A legal complaint has been filed and a police source told Agence France-Presse that investigators from the Banditry Repression Brigade in Paris, which handles art theft, had taken up the case.

Approximately 430,000 works of art deemed part of the national heritage are on display or being used in public buildings – such as ministries, embassies, town and city halls and other administrative premises – at home and abroad.

In 2016, a report by a commission charged with keeping an eye on them, suggested that at least 22,800 objects had gone missing, including a large acacia bench chair with cushions, which disappeared from the Assemblée Nationale building without anyone apparently noticing.

At the French embassy in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, five tapestries measuring between two and six metres wide have also vanished, and at the Château de Versailles officials reported a 19th-century bed measuring two metres by two metres had disappeared.

The objects are listed on the culture ministry’s website under the Sherlock database for missing and stolen works, which is normally available for public consultation but was closed for maintenance on Wednesday.

A report in the Libération newspaper in 2016 accused officials of not keeping their eye on national treasures after a Louis XVI desk from the education ministry building turned up at an antique dealers without having been reported missing.


Kim Willsher in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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