Home Arts Mexican authorities condemn French auction of pre-Columbian objects

Mexican authorities condemn French auction of pre-Columbian objects

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Mexican authorities have asked a Parisian auction house to end its plan to sell ancient objects which they say are protected by the country’s cultural heritage laws.

Millon, a Parisian auction house, is selling what it describes as items from a private collection of pre columbian art April 3. The lots are estimated at €70,000 each.

However, of the 148 lots offered for sale, 83 are archaeological objects protected by Mexican law, according to the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the Ministry of Culture. The organizations said in a statement last week that INAH specialists inspected the auction items.

Items that the Mexican government has claimed as protected by law include anthropomorphic figurines, ceramics and a sacred ax – the most valuable item in the auction – which date back to the Middle Preclassic period (1200BCE-400BCE) .

Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, Mexico’s culture secretary, urged the auction house to stop the sale and take into consideration that the historical, symbolic and cultural value of the objects is “greater than any commercial interest”, according to INAH press release.

The Ministry of Culture and INAH filed a complaint with the Attorney General of Mexico and informed the legal service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interpol. A spokesperson for Millon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mexico has intensified its efforts to repatriate works of art and art objects to the country in recent years, with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador a strong proponent of repatriation as foreign policy priority since his election in 2018. His administration has launched a social media campaign calling for the return of Mexico’s cultural heritage under the hashtag #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende (“My heritage is not for sale”).

Since taking office, thousands of items have been returned to Mexico from around the world, most recently when Italy returned 43 artifacts which were recovered by the Carabinieri Art Squad, the Italian police branch that investigates crimes related to art and antiquities. The artifacts date from around 200 CE to 600 CE, INAH said. In December, the Netherlands returnees 223 prehispanic artifacts in mexico. In September 2019, pre-Columbian artifacts were sold at auction in Paris although Mexico and Guatemala asked Millon to cancel the sale.

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