France. “Institutions not always meeting their legal or regulatory obligation of ten-year assessment” despite “improvements […] recorded this year » : this is the observation drawn up by the Commission for the verification of works of art deposits (CRDOA) in the introduction to the 2022 report, published this summer. The objectives of the second ten-year financial year, started in 2016, are far from being achieved. To keep up, large depositing institutions must collect 10% of their collections on deposit: a pace that only the Mobilier national respects (and even exceeds, with 17.5% of deposits inspected in 2022). For other large depositors, the assessment rate in 2022 oscillates painfully between 0.8% and 5%.
An extremely high number of objects to collect
Partly slowed down by the Covid-19 crisis, the second ten-year review will end at the end of 2025. Depositories thus have three years to inspect the remaining 40% of their deposits, i.e.: 58,126 works for national museums, 22,560 for the National Center for Plastic Arts (Cnap), 10,000 for the Ministry of the Armed Forces. A special case, the Manufacture de Sèvres, which deposits small and numerous tableware objects, must inspect 104,927 pieces before 2026. The Center des monuments nationaux, the smallest depositor, must still collect 80% of its scattered works, or 1,784 objects. Despite the observation of an unattainable legal objective, the report wishes to note “positive developments”. “We are making progress on complaints and disappearances, explains Évelyne Ratte, president of the CRDOA. The conservatives were reluctant. Filing a complaint seemed to them to undermine their professional practice and engender a form of guilt. Younger generations have understood that filing a complaint is a professional practice. »
A 2017 regulatory simplification also makes it possible to speed up the processing of proofing missions. At Mobilier national – which the report presents as a good student, thanks to a recent reorganization of its inspection services – the rate of complaints remaining to be filed fell from 40% to 4%, from 2019 to 2022. The rate disappearance of works rises to 31%: a percentage largely distorted by the old deposits of the Manufacture de Sèvres, small fragile objects, which are easily lost. Without taking into account its tableware, the percentage of collected works considered missing drops to 15%.
Another reason for satisfaction is the speed with which institutions produce their post-assessment reports, particularly in national museums. A development that the president of the CRDOA attributes to the health crisis: “Covid had a curious effect: as travel was limited, institutions updated many of the reports produced, which resulted from missions carried out previously. I feel like putting it all down on paper boosted interest in proofing. »
New tools and pooling of inspections
New proofing methods are also being put forward by the CRDOA, which could facilitate missions in the future. Like remote proofing, “an initiative to be credited to the Cnap”, specifies Évelyne Ratte: the inspection mission is carried out by the depositary, on the instructions of the depositing institution. A form of trust which allows institutions whose works are particularly scattered, such as the Cnap, to accelerate proofing. The tool is “use with discernmentnevertheless warns Emmanuel Pénicault, director of the Mobilier national collections. Proofreading is a material and intellectual operation; it is also an opportunity to look again at our collections. In the case of a distant embassy, we can indeed be satisfied with remote proofing. »
The sharing of collection missions between depositing institutions is also encouraged, through the creation of an online platform (Osmose). On the latter, the scheduled inspection missions are displayed by the institutions: if Sèvres inspects the works deposited in a prefecture, the Mobilier national or the Cnap can thus ask its inspectors to control their works deposited in the same place. “A few years ago, it was unthinkablesays Évelyne Ratte. Today, it works better and better, especially for missions abroad. »
However, it is on the Paris department – headquarters of most major depositors – that the CRDOA emphasizes in its latest report. The proofing rate (excluding the National Assembly, Senate, and other state institutions which are the subject of specific reports) is particularly low (54%), for a very high number of deposits (39,000). The figure is boosted by deposits from museum to museum, as well as by a large number of works from the Cnap: institutions monopolized by other missions, or major projects (such as the relocation of the Cnap), and whose teams do not are not expandable. The problem of staffing has not escaped the CRDOA, while more and more proofing missions are entrusted to subcontracting companies.