Apparantly, Belloq has found someone to piece together his sorry skull and preserve him for the 21st century. Read on. The source for the article is at the end. Areas of emphasis in the article is my own to show relevance to Belloq's "ideals."
Chirac runs into tribal ridicule
Matthew Campbell, Paris
Museum ‘legacy’ is a nice earner
FRENCH presidents like leaving their mark on the Parisian skyline. Georges Pompidou has his centre. François Mitterrand built a big library. Jacques Chirac’s legacy-building effort, however, is in danger of becoming a white elephant as the drumbeat of criticism quickens around his museum of tribal art.
Since opening amid great fanfare one month ago, the Musée du Quai Branly has been attacked on all fronts, from the £170m cost to its architecture and the poor quality of lighting that led one critic recently to call it a “heart of darkness in the City of Light”.
More serious, however, are allegations of cronyism and conflict of interest that have surfaced along with the suggestion that senior government officials, including Chirac, are set to benefit handsomely from the boom in primitive art prices that has been associated with the museum’s creation.
(Sounds like Chirac has a Belloq-like streak himself)
It may not have been what he intended a decade ago when he announced his desire to build a home for “forgotten civilisations” on the banks of the Seine, but primitive art prices have more than doubled since then. Chirac has a private collection of African, Asian and American art that could be worth several million pounds.
Despite pressure from various examining magistrates, Chirac, who likes to portray himself as a bulwark against American cultural imperialism, has avoided shedding any light on various financial irregularities involving free airline tickets and bags of cash when he was mayor of Paris.
Still less is known about his private finances, but the art collection could be one of his biggest assets. Meanwhile, the collection belonging to the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, of African carvings and Indian bronzes has performed equally well, judging by prices in Paris where an auction last month notched up new records.
“A lot of senior French functionaries have invested in primitive art,” said Bernard Dupaigne, an ethnologist and author of The Tribal Art Scandal. “If one were being mischievous, one could say that they are good speculators. They knew before other people that prices would go up. You can’t blame them. That’s the way of the modern world.”
The idea for the museum might never have occurred to Chirac had it not been for Jacques Kerchache, described as the “Indiana Jones of the tribal art world.” (Yeah, right. I think Indy's ethics are a teensy bit higher) He bonded with Chirac on a beach in Mauritius in 1992 after discovering their common passion for African carvings. ("passion" aka greed)
Kerchache, who died of lung cancer in 2001, was an adventurer and art dealer with a scorn for desk-bound, professional ethnologists such as Dupaigne.
The scorn was mutual: the Musée de L’Homme, where Dupaigne has worked for four decades, was one of two Paris museums forced to hand over their collections of tribal art to Kerchache for the presidential museum.
“Kerchache had his own interests,” said Dupaigne, showing a visitor around the largely empty Musée de L’Homme, part of which is now rented out. “He was a dealer.”
Kerchache was given the go-ahead by Chirac to organise the first ever exhibition of primitive art in the Louvre in 2000. He had also told underlings to “work with Kerchache” in planning the museum: the dealer was made chief consultant.
Although he did not live to see its opening on June 23, Kerchache has not been forgotten. A museum reading room has been named after him and his widow Ann, who sits on the board, sold two Kerchache pieces to the museum — a 19th-century Hembe sculpture for £200,000 and an African serpent mask for £500,000.
The museum has acquired about 8,000 items, from Australian bark paintings to shields from Papua New Guinea, giving a further boost to the market.
Stéphane Martin, the museum’s director, brushed aside his critics, saying the museum had a noble purpose: to offer masterpieces of primitive art “the same level of dignity and respect that you give a painting by Leonardo da Vinci”.
An affable figure with his own collection of Oceanic art and a tattoo on his leg from the Marquesas islands, Martin said the museum was reaching out to non-European civilisations, a positive thing at a time when France was having such trouble absorbing its immigrant population.
But the critics have not been kind. One referred to Jean Nouvel’s architecture as “an enormous, rambling crepuscular cavern that tries to evoke a journey into the jungle, downriver, where suddenly scary masks or totem poles loom out of the darkness and everything is meant to be foreign and exotic”.
Scholars such as Dupaigne also believe objects have been put on display without enough explanation of their practical, mystical or ritual purposes.
Martin found such arguments condescending. He recognised, however, that tastes change and that Chirac’s museum might not endure through the ages: “Maybe in 50 years’ time there will be a president who treats this museum in the same way that Chirac treated the Musée de l’Homme.”
Dupaigne, for one, hopes that it happens much sooner.