- Title: Mexico objects to 'illegal' auction of pre-Columbian art in Paris
- Date: 18th September 2019
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 18, 2019) (REUTERS) AZTEC SITTING GODDESS STATUE, DATED 1350-1521 AD / AZTEC FERTILITY STATUE DATED 1400-1520 AD STATUES AZTEC SITTING GODDESS STATUE, DATED 1350-1521 AD WOODEN DANCE MASK DATED 17TH-18TH CENTURIES STATUE OF AZTEC WATER GODDESS DATED 1350 TO 1521 AD (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MEXICAN AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE, JUAN MANUEL GOMEZ-ROBLEDO, SAYING: "Mexico is the rightful owner of these artworks and we've come here to express our unhappiness and to explain why this violates not only Mexican law but also international law. And we're asking - as we asked yesterday during the news conference at the embassy - for an intervention from the French government, whose approach has evolved in a positive way." AZTEC SITTING GODDESS STATUE, DATED 1350-1521 AD, BEING PLACED ON AUCTION STAND SCREEN SHOWING BID REACHING 100,000 EUROS AUCTIONEER AND PRESIDENT OF MILLON AUCTION HOUSE, ALEXANDRE MILLON RAISING GAVEL AUCTION STAFF ON PHONE MILLON ANNOUNCING WINNING BID OIF 290,000 EUROS (SOUNDBITE) (French) AUCTIONEER AND PRESIDENT OF MILLON AUCTION HOUSE, ALEXANDRE MILLON, SAYING: "The problem for Mexico is that this collection is exemplary in every way - provenance, publications and exhibitions it has featured in - and that should make it a positive platform for Mexico, which should use this auction to say 'Look at this sale, it's ones like these that we need' to stop other auctions which might not take the same precautions." IDOL DEPICTING A PRIEST MADE OF SERPENTINE DATED 450 TO 650 AD MAYAN STATUE OF SITTING PRIEST LORD MADE OF TERRACOTTA DATED 550 TO 900 AD MASKS ON DISPLAY, INCLUDING BROKEN TEOTIHUACAN CULT MASK DATED 250-650 AD PENDANTS DATING FROM 300 TO 100 BC (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MEXICAN AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE, JUAN MANUEL GOMEZ-ROBLEDO, SAYING: "We are obviously very aware that a substantial part of the market is fed by illicit digs. The Mexican state by definition does not know what was stolen because it happened in secret but where these artworks are identified anywhere in the world we will act on the advice of experts." PIECES ON DISPLAY IN AUCTION AZTEC CEREMONIAL ALTAR DATING FROM 1350 TO 1521 AD (SOUNDBITE) (French) AUCTIONEER AND PRESIDENT OF MILLON AUCTION HOUSE, ALEXANDRE MILLON, SAYING: "The question is a very simple one: am I a French person who owns art which comes from outside the West, and is my ownership under threat? Clearly that's what's at stake today. Laissez-faire, inaction on the part of the French government, the fact that auction houses today are alone in representing the rights of private individuals to do what they want with their property, today that's totally under threat. And we'd like help." EXTERIOR OF DROUOT AUCTION HOUSE (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MEXICAN AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE, JUAN MANUEL GOMEZ-ROBLEDO, SAYING: "If you have a work of Mexican art in your country, as there are here in Paris, and you travel to Mexico you may be investigated and sanctioned under Mexican law. These would be criminal sanctions, it's as simple as that." JOURNALISTS FILMING
- Embargoed: 2nd October 2019 13:05
- Keywords: Drouot pre-Columbian art restitution Maya Olmeca Mexico
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE
- City: PARIS, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Topics: Art,Arts / Culture / Entertainment
- Reuters ID: LVA001AX6QFRB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS EDIT, WITH ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF AUCTION, THAT WAS NOT IN THE ORIGINAL VERSION
Mexico's Foreign Ministry urged French auction house Millon to halt what it called an "illegal" auction of 120 pieces of pre-Columbian artefacts at an event in Paris on Wednesday (September 18).
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that some artefacts appeared to have been stolen or illegally sold while others may not be authentic.
"Mexico is the rightful owner of these artworks, and we've come here to express our unhappiness and to explain why this violates not only Mexican law but also international law," the country's ambassador to France told reporters outside the Drouot auction house where the sale was set to take place.
Millon auction house president Alexandre Millon told Reuters on Wednesday that Manichak and Jean Aurance satisfied all the legal criteria to justify their ownership of the collection, which they amassed after falling in love with a piece in a Paris gallery in 1963.
"The problem for Mexico is that this collection is exemplary in every way," Millon said, adding that the Mexican government should hold the sale up as a legally faultless example.
The collection includes sculptures, masks and religious artefacts from before 1000 BC up to the 18th Century A.D.
The tensions over the pre-Columbian art pieces come amid a wider discussion over whether Western collectors and museums should return objects to their countries of origin. Collectors and museums often argue that there, they lack adequate care.
French President Emmanuel Macron last year became the first Western leader to initiate a comprehensive review of artefacts looted during colonial times and promised to return 26 pieces to Benin.
(Production: Michaela Cabrera, Antony Paone, Thierry Chiarello)
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