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  • A stone kneeling figure of the goddess of fertility and land Coatlicue, one of pre-Columbian artefacts, is presented to the press at Drouot auction house in Paris, France, September 18, 2019.

    A stone kneeling figure of the goddess of fertility and land Coatlicue, one of pre-Columbian artefacts, is presented to the press at Drouot auction house in Paris, France, September 18, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 September 2019
Opinion

The collection includes sculptures, masks and religious artefacts from before 1000 B.C. up to the 18th century A.D.

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.

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"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," Juan Manuel Gomez-Robledo, the country's ambassador to France, told reporters outside the Drouot auction house where the sale was set to take place.

"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."

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that some artefacts appeared to have been stolen or illegally sold while others may not be authentic.

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 in the place of origin of the artefact, those countries don't know how to care for the antiquaties. 

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.​​​​​​​

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