Former managing director of the Centre Pompidou pleads guilty to misuse of public funds

Agnès Saal opts for the Paris métro nowadays. Photo: Marianne
Agnès Saal, the former managing director of the Centre Pompidou and the former director of France’s Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA, National Audiovisual Insitute), will plead guilty to charges of misuse of public funds during her time at the two institutions, the AFP reports.

Saal became a symbol for high-level civil servants abusing the system after Le Figaro reported, in April 2015, that she had spent €40,000 on taxis in a period of ten months (including €6,700 spent by her son) when she was the director of the INA. She stepped down from that position in April 2015 at the request of the minister of culture, and last January, president François Hollande banned her from civil service for six months without pay, followed by an 18-month suspension.

In pleading guilty, Saal will avoid a public trial, although the state prosecutor’s sentence must be approved by the courts during a public audience. Two hearings to confirm sentencing will be held on 11 April at the high court of Créteil, a Paris suburb, over the €40,000 Saal spent as the director of the INA, and on 15 April in Paris over €38,000 in taxi bills from January 2013 to April 2014, when Saal was at the Centre Pompidou.

Jérôme Karsenti, the lawyer representing Anticor—the anti-corruption group whose legal complaint against Saal preceded the investigations into her spending—expressed his disappointment to the AFP, saying: “This affair merited a true public audience on the use of public funds by certain high-level state employees.”

Shanghai Museum to begin major construction project

The Shanghai Museum is due to begin an extensive renovation and expansion at its 32,900 sq. m People’s Square location later this year. The first phase, which involves the repair of facilities, is not expected to have an impact on daily operations. After the completion of the museum’s eastern branch in the Pudong New Area—now under construction and due to open by 2020—the main branch will close for a more thorough renovation. The eastern satellite, to be located on the west side of the Pudong Science & Technology Museum, will be more than twice the size of the original and will showcase ancient Chinese paintings and artefacts.

Subhash Kapoor’s presence felt in New York

New York’s Asia Week (10-19 March) was unfortunately dominated by a string of antiquities seizures, some linked to the dealer Subhash Kapoor. Kapoor is on trial in India for smuggling thousands of antiquities out of that country, a charge he denies. A Gandharan Bodhisattva head and two Indian sandstone sculptures were confiscated by US federal agents ahead of auction, while an Afghan sculpture was seized from a New York gallery. According to a statement released by investigators: “With Asia Week in New York… [customs officials] have been on the lookout for shipments coming in from shippers and sources that might be trying to exploit our border controls.”

Small galleries hit the roof over Frieze’s grey carpet

Replacing the ubiquitous carpet at Frieze 2016 will cost booths thousands. Photo © Graham Carlow, courtesy Graham Carlow/Frieze
The flooring of this May’s edition of Frieze New York will be covered entirely by grey carpet. However, the move has left some smaller galleries unhappy because removing it from their booths and replacing it with another material (that might better show off a floor work, for example)could reportedly cost between $3,000 and $15,000, according to some dealers. Dimitri Parisis, the owner of Dimitri Carpet in Hoboken, New Jersey (one of Frieze’s recommended booth contractors), says the upper lim it is probably more like $9,000, depending on booth size and materials. Frieze did not respond to a request for comment.