Thursday 21 March 2013

Paris Barbier-Mueller Archaeological Sale: Mexico Too Slow off the Mark?

It's a bit late in the day one would have thought to react to the news of the Barbier-Mueller sale (Sotheby's PF1340), due to start tomorrow. A statement issued by the Mexican institute Wednesday says it objects to "the international trade in protected cultural objects" and says the pieces being offered in the sale of this private collection mostly put together in the 1990s are "property of the nation". As a consequence, 
The Mexican government is demanding that the Sotheby's auction house halt the planned sale of 51 pre-Colombian Mexican artifacts, arguing they are protected national historical pieces. The National Institute of Anthropology and History says Mexico has sent a diplomatic note to the French government seeking assistance in heading off the sale scheduled in Paris for Friday and Saturday [...] Sotheby's did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
It is difficult to know what "the French government" can do, this is not the USA (which - one may speculate - is why the auction is taking place in Paris and not the USA). The schedule is as follows:
Session 1: Fri 22 Mar 2013 4:00 PM Lots 1 - 109
Session 2:
Fri 22 Mar 2013 7:00 PM Lots 110 - 162
Session 3:
Sat 23 Mar 2013 2:30 PM Lots 163 - 313
Mind you, Peru was quicker off the mark, and look where that got them. The contested items are still listed. Sotheby's, together with their lawyers, and their partners in archaeological expropriation the fat cat collectors are thumbing their noses at the lot of them.

On Friday, Paris UNESCO officials are expected to stay sequestered in their offices a few hundred meters from the sale - pretending they do not see it - and on Saturday they'll not have to pretend because they'll be staying at home at the weekend. Maybe though a UNESCO cultural ambassador who is also a collector will be bidding in the sale? There is nevertheless an air of anxiety in the UNESCO Paris office, on Monday they will be getting a new coffee machine.

Associated Press, 'Mexico demands Sotheby's halt auction in Paris of pre-Hispanic artifacts from Mexico', Fox News March 21, 2013   



Even if UNESCO officials are aware of the auction of contested artefacts, they can hardly intervene if none of the parties involved has asked for their assistance. The mere knowledge about the proposed sale is not enough for the officials to take any action.
Kwame Opoku.

Paul Barford said...

France is, or France is not a signatory of the 1970 UNESCO Convention?

Which means... nothing?

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