Chapter 54. The Case of the Olympic Posters
Several years ago, to coincide with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, I was asked by fellow members of the Surrey Foundation board to investigate the possibility of purchasing approximately 3,000 Olympic posters to be housed in a newly constructed athletic facility in North Surrey. Some of the posters dated back to the turn of the last century. The collection would be permanently housed in the new facility; however, parts of it would travel to various towns and cities in the province of British Columbia with the intention of promoting the Olympic ideals associated with sports, education and culture.
The collection was located in the basement of the Imperial Palace Hotel in Annecy, France, which is close to the Swiss border. The manager of the four-star hotel, a Mr. Couasnon, was the owner of the collection and had graciously offered to subsidize my stay at the hotel in exchange for the possibility of a sale; the asking price for the collection was $3 million USD.
As the designated art guy, I was summarily dispatched to my destination with the mandate to make a detailed review of the collection and report back to the board as to the feasibility of the enterprise. I flew to Geneva via Amsterdam and was transported to the Imperial Palace Hotel by the hotel driver. My room with a view on the third floor had a small balcony that overlooked Lake Annecy.
On arrival I was greeted by the manager and arranged to meet with him the following day to discuss the logistics involved in viewing, accessing and transporting the collection, some parts of which were displayed in the hotel lobby, rooms and corridors.
With unrestricted access to the secured basement, over the course of several days, I was able to make a reasonable determination as to the condition of the collection and form an opinion as to its value and authenticity. The posters were mostly framed and included those produced by commercial, governmental and institutional sponsors; the collection appeared fairly complete with representative images from most of the modern Olympic Games held since 1894.
In discussions with my host, I determined that he had formed the collection over many years from his association with the IOC (International Olympic Committee), headquartered in nearby Geneva. If I recall correctly, he indicated that he had at one time been on the advisory board of the IOC.
Upon my return, the board debriefed me and they concluded that they should approach the owner to attempt to acquire approximately 100 posters on approval for a trial exhibition. Unfortunately, Mr. Couasnon denied the boards request and the deal fell through.