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Mexico Tries To Stop Auction Of Pre-Columbian Artifacts In Germany

The Mexican government is attempting to stop the auction of more than 70 artifacts from the pre-Columbian era by the Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger art dealership in Germany.

The issue first came to light on September 13 when it was revealed that the Culture Ministry of Mexico and the Instituto Nacional de Arqueologia e Historia (INAH) had filed a complaint with the country’s Attorney General’s office. The INAH had listed the items, about to be sold by the Munich-based art dealer, to be ‘national patrimony’ belonging to the Mexican people. Soon, Alejandra Fraustro (Secretary of Culture, Mexico) wrote an open letter to the art dealer echoing the sentiments.

The items on sale include various ancient artifacts from Mesoamerica. These include a group of figures from Michoacán and Veracruz (between 300-900 CE), a mask of ancient Olmec people, and a small sculpture of Cihuateotl. Prices of these items are estimated to be between €5,000 and €100,000.

An Olmec mask, one of the items on sale

A few days ago, Mexico’s ambassador to Germany Francisco Quiroga had visited Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger and met its head Francisca Bernheimer. While he didn’t reveal how the attempts to block the sale went, he did post on social media that one of the items on sale was a fake. Meanwhile, Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger maintains that all the items on sale were legally obtained within Germany. The dealership also mentioned that each item is accompanied by proof of provenance issued by reputable organizations.

While it is not clear if the attempts to block the sale will succeed, it fits the pattern of Mexico’s newfound zeal to recover its historic artifacts from around the globe. Earlier this month, the country’s authorities successfully stopped the auction of 17 Mexican artifacts in Rome. The Mexican ambassador to Italy also stopped the delivery of artifacts that had already been sold.

Update: The sale went through, but many works failed to sell