Mexico objects to auction of pre-Columbian artifacts in Paris
Paris, Jan 28 (EFE).- The Mexican government lodged a complaint on Friday against an auction in Paris of pre-Columbian artifacts, saying those objects belong to Mexico and that France is encouraging looting by selling them.
“Mexico reiterates its objection to the sale abroad of Mexican pre-Columbian cultural objects, which under current legislation in our national jurisdiction are property of the nation, inalienable and imprescriptible,” Mexico’s ambassador to France, Blanca Jimenez Cisneros, told reporters.
The diplomatic mission conveyed its objections in a verbal note to France’s Foreign Ministry that included an advisory opinion from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
The embassy also wrote to Millon, the organizer of Friday’s auction, and to Drouot, provider of the online platform.
The auction featured 381 lots with pieces of primitive art from several continents and dozens of objects from Latin American countries such as Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica, which have not filed any complaint, Millon said. More than a dozen pieces came from Mexico.
The artifacts were sold at prices ranging from 80 euros ($90) to 2,300 euros.
Most of the Mexican items went for less than 500 euros, the lone exception being a large Mayan pectoral – a stone chest ornament that would have been part of a ruler’s ceremonial regalia – whose price tag exceeded 1,000 euros.
That object dating to between 600-900 AD is from the former collection of Alfred Stendahl of Los Angeles and had been previously auctioned in Paris by the Drouot auction house in December 2009.
“Our heritage is not for sale,” the ambassador said, adding that the auction “promotes looting, pillaging, illicit trafficking, asset laundering by international organized crime and undermines modern archaeology by encouraging illegal excavations.”
The Millon auction house, however, defended the legality of the sale and said the Mexican authorities’ objections were a “political ploy.”
“The sale is in keeping with French law. Mexico says nothing against the people who traffic yet says that we, who are honest, are stealing,” a Millon expert in pre-Columbian art, Serge Reynes, said.
“It upsets me that they’d say we’re trafficking with their pieces because they were sold legally,” Reynes said, adding that the Mexican objects were “small pieces” that are not a major part of that country’s cultural heritage.