Paris court dismisses bribery charges brought against Marlborough Gallery, French curator and artist’s family

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A Parisian court has acquitted the New York gallery Marlborough and its former representatives, as well as a retired curator of the Musée Guimet and the family of the late artist Chu Teh-Chun, of all charges of bribery brought against them ten years ago. The investigation arose from a complaint filed in 2012 by late French dealer Enrico Navarra and his gallery, a rival of Marlborough. A civil case between the two companies is ongoing in New York state.

Chu (1920-2014) was an abstract painter who settled in Paris in the 1950s. In 1997, he became the first Chinese-born artist to be elected to the French Academy of Fine Arts. Marlborough produced a series of 56 vases, made at the famous French porcelain manufacturer Sèvres and painted by the artist, which was exhibited at the Musée Guimet—France’s national museum of Asian art—from 2009 to 2011. A former curator at the museum, Jean-Paul Desroches, was accused of having received €20,000 for a text on the ceramics sponsored by Marlborough, while promoting his work in a public museum. But on 29 September the court found that this payment and some travel costs covered work for catalogues and other exhibitions abroad, and that there was no tie to the Guimet show.

During the hearing, which had been postponed several times since 2020, the district attorney himself had requested a general acquittal. Consequently, all charges have been dismissed against Desroches, former Marlborough director Pierre Levai, Marlborough’s former director for Asian art Philippe Koutouzis, and Chu’s widow and son. Desroches’s lawyer, Lea Forestier, says the curator is relieved by the judgement, although “it took ten years to establish his complete innocence, after such a confused investigation”.

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