Mexico loses offer to stop auction of pre-Hispanic artifacts

MEXICO CITY – An auction of Christie’s pre-Hispanic items took place on Wednesday despite calls from the Mexican government to stop it, the latest turn in Mexico’s lost battle to stop such sales.

The Paris branch of Christie’s auctioned 72 sculptures and figurines from the Mayan and Olmec cultures despite Mexico’s claim that the pieces were national treasures and part of its national heritage. Fifteen other items failed to sell.

A Mayan stone sculpture, traditionally known as the “Ax” because of its shape, sold for nearly $ 800,000 (692,000 euros). Christie’s catalog described the piece as a “sculpted sculpture of a bearded dignitary with his head dramatically thrown back and battling a mythical and sinuous rattlesnake”.

The Mexican government said a dozen artifacts on sale were fake, but most of them were sold anyway.

Mexican authorities had asked Christie’s to stop the sale, which included other artifacts from Tainos and other cultures, and launched a social media campaign under the slogan “#my heritage is not for sale.”

Mexico’s Department of Foreign Relations stated that the majority of the items in the auction reached the market through illegal acts and that “this type of action represents an attack on culture, not only that of the peoples to which it belongs. , but against understanding the history of mankind and its cultures. “

Leonardo López Luján, who oversaw the excavations at Mexico City’s Templo Mayor, wrote on his Twitter account that “it’s a never-ending story.”

“It is proven that the old, recurring method of sending letters and requests has no effect other than pretending that something is being done,” López Lujan wrote. “Complex problems are solved with complex strategies.”

Mexico failed to stop several auctions, including a sale of pre-Hispanic sculptures and other items made by Christie’s Paris earlier this year.

The Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History protested the Christie’s Paris sale in February. The collection included a 1,500-year-old stone mask from the ancient city of Teotihuacan and an ancient statue of the fertility goddess Cihuateotl, apparently from the Totonac culture. The auction grossed over $ 3 million.

Parisian auction houses often sell Indigenous artifacts that are already on the art market, despite protests from activists who say they should be returned to their home countries. Christie’s said the Mayan sculpture, for example, was purchased by a European collector in the United States around 1970.

This appears to predate a 1972 Mexican law that banned the export or sale of significant archaeological or cultural artifacts.

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