Musée d'Orsay: Collection development

Collection development

The museum's artworks entered the collections in a variety of ways. The method of acquisition is part of the history of the work and features on many related documents, from the rubric accompanying its reproduction to the catalogue notes. The definition of the main methods of acquisition can be found below.

Achat (Purchase)
The museum becomes the owner of an item, in return for payment, within predefined conditions.

Achat après commande (Purchase after commission)
The Museum commissions a work from an artist, which, once completed, will come into the museum's collection.

Achat au Salon (Purchase at the Salon)
In the 19th century and early 20th century, the Salons in Paris were important cultural events. Artists presented their work there in the hope of being noticed by the critics and of seeing their work purchased by art collectors or by the State.

Achat avec participation (Purchase with a third party)
The work of art is acquired with the financial support of a third party, a legal entity or individual person. This type of purchase is developing thanks to new provisions in the 2003 law on sponsorship.

Achat en vente publique (Purchase at auction)
The work is purchased at public auction. The museum in this case acts as any other bidder. The work goes to the "highest bidder".

Achat par préemption en vente publique (Pre-emptive purchase at auction)
If the state decides to make a pre-emptive purchase of an item, this decision of pre-emption is announced verbally to everyone in the auction room as soon as the hammer falls. The authorised agent will then make the following statement: "Subject to the State exercising its pre-emptive right". However the purchase does not take effect immediately. The State has two weeks to confirm its position. During this time, the administrative bodies concerned can carry out further analyses or historical research. If the State does not confirm its wish for pre-emption, the highest bidder is then considered, by means of the resolutive condition, to have purchased the work.

Achat par préemption en douane
(Pre-emptive purchase of items stopped by Customs authorities)
An artwork is stopped by Customs before it can leave the national territory. The French State can purchase it for the national collections after negotiating a price with the vendor. An emergency measure, rarely used.

Achat sur les arrérages d'un legs (Purchase with the interest on a legacy)
A sum of money is bequeathed. When invested, this sum produces an annual revenue which permits artworks to be purchased periodically. This method of acquisition is very rare.

Achat sur les arrérages d'une donation
(Purchase with the interest from a donation)
See "Purchase with the interest on a legacy". A sum of money is donated. When invested, this sum produces an annual revenue which permits artworks to be purchased periodically. This method of acquisition is very rare.

Attribution par l'office des biens privés (Allocation of private property)
Works of art found in Germany after the Second World War, and not reclaimed by their former owners. These works are entered into special inventories, and have a number preceded by "MNR" or "REC".

Dation (Acceptance in Lieu)
The Acceptance in Lieu scheme, subject to agreement by both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Culture, exceptionally allows works of great artistic or historical value to be given in lieu of liabilities for inheritance tax, capital transfer tax or wealth tax.

Learn more about Dation

Don manuel (Gift from hand to hand)
This is accompanied by a simple exchange of letters clearly indicating the donor's wishes.

This is a gift accompanied by a notarised document laying out a consensus ad idem: the willingness of one party to give, and the willingness of the other party to receive. This is a contract where the free transfer of a work is immediate and irrevocable, and it lays out any conditions the donor may wish to make.

Donation avec réserve d'usufruit (Donation with a life interest)
This allows the donor to retain the work until his/her death. The donor can equally decide to give up the life interest to the museum at any moment he/she chooses.

Legs (Bequest)
A legacy, through a will, allows a work or works to be given to the State or to a museum. The work becomes part of the national collections on the death of the testator.

Legs sous réserve d'usufruit (Bequest with a life interest)
The testator bequeaths a work to a museum but gives the life interest to a third person. The latter can enjoy the bequeathed work until his/her death.

Mode d'acquisition particulier (Other means of acquisition)
Any other means of acquisition other than those cited above. For example, objects found in the Orsay station before the site was renovated as a museum.

Proposition d'acquisition (A proposal of acquisition)
A work is offered to the museum with a view to possible acquisition. The museum reserves the right to accept or refuse to acquire the work offered, whether a gift or a purchase.

Saisie en douane (Seizure by the customs authorities)
L'oeuvre est confisquée par les services de l'Etat alors qu'elle allait être illicitement portée hors du territoire national, généralement pour être vendue. The work is confiscated by the State Customs authorities when it is about to be taken illegally outside the national territory, usually to be sold. The State has a right to the seized work. In certain circumstances the inept vendor may be compensated.

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