A legal battle opposing the Hans Arp foundation in Germany and French Customs over the transfer out of the France of the artist's plaster casts has taken a new turn following a complaint lodged by another Arp foundation in Switzerland.
The German foundation has been accused of trying to export 114 casts and 32 reliefs illegally to Germany after underpricing them This resulted in a row between experts over the real value of these casts, the problem being to ascertain whether they were worth an average 40,000 FF (US $ 8,000) or more than 200,000 FF (US $ 40,000 dollars) each.
In justifying the low estimates, Mme Marie-Aline Prat, an expert for the Paris Court of Appeal, said that prices for Arp had fallen in the past six years but many dealers challenged her opinion on the basis of recent auction prices recorded for some bronze sculptures. They added that consequently the plaster casts might be used to make new bronze sculptures which could then be sold at prices ranging from 200,000 FF to over two millions (US $ 40,000 to US $ 400,000).
Basing their defence on Mme Prat's estimates, the legal advisers of the German Foundation have retorted that the casts are of little value and that they have nothing to do with the bronze reproduction rights which are the property of the foundation.
French Customs claim on the contrary that these casts are worth a lot since the foundation could freely use them to produce bronze sculptures. Such assertion has been backed by gallery owner Denise René who said that the production of bronzes through these plaster casts could open the door to many abuses.
Many specialists believe the plaster casts should return to Arp's studio near Paris which has now become an empty place.
A comittee of sculptors has been set up to obtain the return of these casts in the Clamart Studio while another foundation created in 1988 by Arp's widow Marguerite (she was his second wife) has sued the German foundation
denying its official existence and its rights over the works it has acquired according to a controversial document signed on August 24th 1977. A spokesman for the Swiss foundation added that Marguerite Arp never intended to create a foundation in Germany.