Earlier this month, following a raid on his family’s nonprofit art-research institute in Paris, billionaire art dealer Guy Wildenstein was detained on charges that he possessed missing artworks. Now it has emerged that he has a simple explanation: he didn’t know the art were there.
“I didn’t inspect the vault,” Mr. Wildenstein reportedly told French police, while being detained at what The New York Times describes as a “boxy suburban headquarters for a special art theft squad outside Paris.” He apparently added, “We have never had an inventory of the vault.”
The Times points out that “most art galleries carefully monitor works for tax and insurance requirements, updating records regularly as art is sold or lent to institutions,” which makes Mr. Wildenstein’s decision not to inventory the vault somewhat peculiar. The dealer claims that staffing issues and a family conflict prevented him from conducting an inventory, but admits in the court documents that a record was kept for a second vault at the institute.
Mr. Wildenstein faces up to seven years in prison and a €750,000 (approximately $1 million) fine in connection with the charges.