Mexico demands end of auction of 74 pre-Columbian artefacts
We live in a time of shifting cultural sands, counting simultaneously with a global community more interconnected than ever before and the recognition of individual voices and entire nations whose histories have long been obscured. Antiquities lie at the intersection of these two movements, where global capitalism and the thirst for authenticity create a voracious market for artefacts from cultures that have been subjected to colonial rule or violence. This week, the Mexican government called for an end to an international sale of pre-Columbian artifacts, which would take place online under the aegis of Munich merchant Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger.
As reported by the Art journal, Mexican Culture Secretary Alejandra Fraustro wrote to Nachfolger to try to stop the auction of 74 artifacts, currently scheduled for Tuesday, September 21. The Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) has designated these objects as “national heritage” belonging to the people of Mexico. INAH was established in 1939, with a government mandate to preserve Mexican cultural heritage through the cataloging and protection of monuments and buildings considered cultural heritage. INAH is responsible for 110,000 historical monuments built between the 16th and 19th centuries and 29,000 of the estimated 200,000 pre-Columbian archaeological areas in Mexico.
The formation of the INAH followed the imposition of a Mexican law of 1934 which prohibited the export of objects of archaeological importance. According to Art journal, Fraustro cited this law in an attempt to stop the sale, and the Secretary of Culture also underlined the Mexican government’s renewed commitment to secure and recover works considered to contribute to the national heritage, including those potentially withdrawn. illegally or trafficked. The Nachfolger auction includes many figurines, masks, small ceramic statues and carved stones identifiable as pre-Columbian deities. Estimates of the value of various coins range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
The negotiations took a diplomatic turn, as Francisco Quiroga, Mexican Ambassador to Germany, visited Munich this week and spoke with Francisca Bernheimer, the boss of Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger and niece of the company founder. There are no reported comments on the meeting from the Embassy or Gallery at this time, and the sale is still listed as scheduled.
According to Quiroga’s social media, several high net worth individuals offered to buy the items directly and bring them back to the country, but the ambassador believes such an approach would only further the trade in stolen items and would prefer to recover the items. objects under the laws in force in place to protect the cultural heritage of Mexico. This is reminiscent of an earlier attempt by the Mexican government this year to stop an auction at Christie’s, which included the sale of 30 items considered to have authentic cultural significance, as well as 3 other items as contemporary fabrications. In an online press conference to protest the auction in Paris, INAH Director General Diego Prieto said: “The Mexican government never approves and will never approve of looting and trade. illegal national heritage.
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