Last update: 05-Dec-2013 1:31 am
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Questions over double purchase of a painting at museum
Questions about the double purchase of a painting have been raised by senior officials at the National Museum. A source said the museum “purchased a painting that was already in its collection” last August. Coincidentally, two Michel Jean Cazabon paintings worth $250,000 each were stolen from the museum around the same time. The incident was kept quiet by officials, but it was talked about in art circles and the T&T Guardian reported it in June this year.
An art dealer attempted to sell the paintings back to the museum. They have since been returned to the national art collection. It was also reported that an unqualified official had agreed to pay inflated prices for works by an amateur artist who held an official post connected with the museum. The alarm was raised over these events by former acting curator Nimah Muwakil-Zakuri on her return from three months’ leave in January.
In February the incidents were investigated and a report was submitted to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Diversity Jacinta Bailey-Sobers. Yesterday Muwakil-Zakuri refused to comment. A message left on Bailey-Sobers’ cellphone yesterday was not returned, while there was a constant beeping tone on Lewis’ cellphone.
Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism permanent secretary Desdra Bascombe and deputy permanent secretary Vel Lewis were suspended with immediate effect last week following allegations of financial impropriety. The two public officials, according to a report in a daily newspaper yesterday, were suspended on Wednesday by the Public Service Commission, pending the outcome of an investigation surrounding invoices amounting to nearly $2 million submitted for payment for several paintings.
The report said investigations are also to be done into an alleged conflict of interest relating to an art dealer and an artist who supplied some of the paintings.
Medulla Gallery owner Geoffrey MacLean said there “is a perception that the purchase of art for the museum and art gallery has been and is strictly controlled by museum staff. There is no selection committee. “The selection committee should include those independent of any personal, commercial or artistically biased representation. “Transparent acquisition policies are also essential.
“Accurate and detailed inventories, including photographs and descriptions of all works should be part of the recording process, something that is particularly lacking.” Mark Pereira, owner of the 101 Gallery, queried who was the art dealer involved. “Certainly none of the art dealers that I know about would be caught up in that nonsense. What I read does not sound realistic to me.” Pereira said he has not sold any of his paintings to the State for several years. “What is reported sounds like bobol...but none of which I trust.
“I don’t trust what I am reading.”
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