The Independent makes a nice story out of a report leaked to The Art Newspaper covering the sale of 150 items from the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum. The museum’s director, Gareth Griffiths, sold these items through a dealer insisting that he keep quiet on their provenance. Here’s the Independent’s summary of the events:
According to a Metropolitan Police report leaked to The Art Newspaper, Dr Griffiths took a London art dealer, Douglas Barrett, around the museum in 2009 and he chose items from around 200 items in the institution’s collection. Mr Barrett selected about 150 items, subsequently selling many on the open market. Two New Zealand curators recognised a statue on sale in Mr Barrett’s gallery, leading to a chain of events in which the police were alerted. While the Met closed their investigation, Avon and Somerset Police are still looking into “allegations of fraud”.
Items sold include a bronze statuette by Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner and a carved Maori model house, a gift to Edward VII for his coronation in 1902.
Mr Barrett denies any wrongdoing. He told The Independent: “What are small museums going to do with all this stuff? This process should have been more transparent but there is no reason to be indignant. This material was being wasted by not being on show.”
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire Museum (The Art Newspaper)