Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Buyer Sought by Police?

"Christie's auction house in London sold

the 11 inch brown quartz bust for £4.7 million
to an anonymous buyer in early July at one of 
its most controversial auctions in years".

The seller refused to show any legitimating paperwork for the artefact sold last week, while the Egyptian state claims it was stolen under the terms of existing laws. The sale was not suspended to allow the seller time to provide a verifiable alibi that should in any case have been in place before the sale was even contemplated - so the police have been called in (Josie Ensor, 'Egypt asks Interpol to recover Tutankhamun statue sold by Christie's' Telegraph 9 July 2019). Will Christie's co-operate with the investigation and indicate the seller and the present whereabouts of this item?
Christie's has denied any wrongdoing, saying it carried out "extensive due diligence" to verify the provenance of the statue and had "gone beyond what is required to assure legal title." The auction house has published a chronology of how the relic changed hands between European art dealers over the past 50 years and told AFP that it would "not sell any work where there isn't clear title of ownership."Yet it is not established how Austrian dealer Joseph Messina (the owner of Galerie Kokorian and Co, Vienna) obtained title through its documented purchase (allegedly in 1973-4) from Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis (1919-2004), because not only does it seem no such document exists, but the alleged former owner's family says he never owned and never sold this rather notable object. There were questions to be asked before the sale went ahead, those questions will not cease to be asked because somebody has paid men in suits £4.7 million for an object with 'sketchy origins'.

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