The Mexican government is working to stop an auction of pre-Columbian artifacts in Germany this week. In a letter sent to Munich merchant Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger, Mexican Culture Secretary Alejandra Fraustro said the archaeological objects had been considered “national heritage” belonging to the Mexican people by the Instituto Nacional de Arqueologia e Historia.
In the letter, first reported by Daily News from Mexico, Fraustro cited a 1934 Mexican law that banned the export of Mexican objects of archaeological significance, and reiterated the government’s commitment to recover Mexican heritage objects from auctions around the world.
More than 70 artifacts are expected to appear at the Munich auction on September 21. Among them is a group of figures from the states of Michoacán and Veracruz that date between AD 300 and 900 A mask of the Olmec people, the earliest known inhabitants of Mesoamerica, is estimated at € 100,000 (117,000 $), while a small sculpture of Cihuateotl, the name given to the souls of women who died in childbirth, is priced at € 5,000 ($ 5,800).
On September 13, the Mexican government said its federal culture ministry and INAH had filed a complaint with the Mexican attorney general’s office. The agencies demanded that the Foreign Ministry’s legal division lend diplomatic influence in the fight to recover the items from the Munich auction house. Meanwhile, Francisco Quiroga, Mexican ambassador to Germany, visited the auction house to meet Francisca Bernheimer, the manager of Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger, with the aim of blocking the sale, according to the Art journal. He then posted on social media that INAH had identified one of the items listed in the catalog as a fake.
In a statement to ARTnews, a representative for Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger said that all items listed in the upcoming auction “have proof of provenance” and were obtained legally in Germany. The auction house added that provenance documentation was available from “reputable” institutions.
The efforts in Munich follow a reaffirmed determination by the Mexican government to combat international trafficking in heritage objects. Earlier this month, Mexican authorities succeeded in canceling an auction of 17 Mexican artifacts that appeared at Casa Bertolami Fine Arts in Rome on September 16. Mexican Ambassador to Italy Carlos García de Alba, working with local police, secured every piece that had yet to be sold and blocked delivery of artifacts already purchased.
“It is the result of cultural diplomacy; of dialogue and the permanent work of two nations which recognize in their heritage one of their greatest treasures, symbols of their history, of their identity and of the most sacred thing that their peoples possess ”, declared Frausto in a press release. at the time.