The great bell in the basilica of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre in Paris (left) is called La Savoyarde. In the light of the recent scandal besetting the Hôtel Drouot, the centre of Parisian auctions, it may be time to re-name that bell.
A few months ago, the French art world was plunged into crisis when numerous members of the so-called ‘cols rouges‘ (‘red collars’, after their red-collared uniforms) — the Drouot’s 150 year-old unionised family of auction porters historically drawn exclusively from the Savoie region of France — were accused of what amounts to organised crime.
Now the French economics newspaper Les Echos reports that an auctioneer and other officials connected with the Drouot have been remanded in custody this week pending investigations. In a new book on the scandal, French journalist Michel Deléan has described the Savoyard cols rouges operation as “a Mafia-type organisation.”