Paris Sotheby's auction draws wrath of Mexico

AFP/The Local
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Paris Sotheby's auction draws wrath of Mexico
File photo of Mayan artefacts found in Mexico. Photo: Moyses Zuniga/AFP

Mexico has asked France to withdraw 130 Mexican pieces from an auction planned this week in Paris at Sotheby's. Guatemala has also protested that 13 of its archeological treasures will also go under the hammer at the same auction.


Auctions like this "strip these unique and priceless goods of their cultural, historic and symbolic essence, turning them into merchandise or mere novelties," the National Institute of Anthropology and History said.

The Mexican government has been opposed to the auction since it saw the catalog for it. The sale is scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Mexican experts have analyzed the catalogue and concluded that, of the 130 piece billed as being from Mexico, 51 are "archeological pieces that belong to the nation" and the rest are handicraft pieces of recent making.

The anthropology and history institute asked France to intervene and halt the sale.

But the institute did not explain why it also wants 59 pieces it said are of recent manufacture to also be spared from the auctioneer's block.

Mexico's request follows a similar one made by Guatemala earlier this month over 13 archeological treasures that will be sold at the same Sotherby's  auction.

Guatemalan law "prohibits the sale and export of all articles that make up our cultural heritage, such as archaeological pieces," the Guatemalan Culture Ministry said in a statement.

It did not indicate which particular artefacts were in question, among the figurines, jewellery, masks, vessels and furniture being sold for an estimated €1,000 to €3 million ($1,300 to $3.9 million).

 The Culture Ministry insisted that the pieces were "the unique, exclusive and legitimate property of the state of Guatemala."

Authorities in the Central American nation expect their colleagues in France to "intervene and enforce the requests made by the parties involved in Latin American countries," the statement added.

"You cannot allow private collectors to unlawfully enrich themselves at the expense of the Americas' pre-Hispanic cultural heritage."

The catalogue of the collection to be sold at the Sotheby's auction can be viewed here.


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