Also in the press this week is the oldest auction house in France, the Hôtel Drouot. The New York Times reported on Monday about an ongoing investigation following twelve arrests made in December.
A dozen people were arrested on suspicion of coordinated thefts, most of them “commissionaires,” members of Drouot’s clannish corporation of handlers and transporters; since then, four more have reportedly confessed to stealing. The police are said to have recovered more than a hundred missing objects and artworks, including several Chagall lithographs and a Courbet valued at as much as $135,000. [NYT]Merchants claim that auctioneers at Drout, who make a commission with a sale, engage in "ballot stuffing," a practice in which they place fake bids to push prices up. The "most persistent rumors," however, have surrounded practices of theft by auctioneers or handlers. Works that were intended to be sold at Drout have disappeared outright from various locations and trucks in before reaching the auction houses.