Mexico to try to stop New York auction of pre-Hispanic artifacts

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The Mexican government has said it will take legal action to stop an auction of pre-Hispanic artifacts by auction house Sotheby’s in New York City. The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said the artifacts are part of Mexico’s cultural history and should not be sold.

Online auction “Art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas” started May 11 and lists 26 Mesoamerican items available for auction. The auction ends on Tuesday.

The most valuable of Mesoamerican coins is a Mayan stone carving from AD 550 to 950 with a starting price of US $ 38,000. The piece is owned by the Albright-Knox Gallery and is expected to sell for up to $ 70,000.

Sotheby’s describes it as an artifact that likely represents a ritual effigy of equipment used in the Mesoamerican ball game, in this case an ax.

A Mayan orange pottery vase depicting a cormorant, dated between AD 250 and AD 450, has a starting offer of $ 30,000 and is expected to be worth up to $ 60,000.

This Maya orangeware ship has an estimated value of between $ 40,000 and $ 60,000.

An Olmec serpentine head from 900 to 300 BC is expected to fetch between $ 5,000 and $ 7,000.

In Sotheby’s catalog, most of the pieces include a brief description of their origin, but it is not clear when and under what conditions they were removed from Mexico.

INAH reported the auction to the Mexican attorney general’s office and requested diplomatic and legal assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interpol.

In February, a similar auction was held at Christie’s auction house in Paris. It included 33 artifacts that Mexico said were part of its cultural history. Despite the actions of the INAH and the Mexican government, the auction took place and 27 of the pieces were sold.

Sources: PA (Fr), the universal (sp), Aristegui Noticias (sp)

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