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Peru claims artifacts in upcoming Sotheby’s auction were “obtained in an illicit manner” – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS

March 2, 2013
LOT 140TÊTE DE FÉLIN CULTURE MOCHICA NORD DU PÉROU 200-700 AP. J.-C. Mochica copper head of a feline, Northern Peru Cuivre oxydé, coquillage et turquoise h. 17 cm ; 6 3/4 et l. 18,5 cm ; 7 1/4 in PROVENANCE Collection Mathias Komor, New York, 1973 Collection Barbier-Mueller, Genève, Inv. n° 532-78 Estimate: €60,000-80,000

LOT 140
TÊTE DE FÉLIN
CULTURE MOCHICA
NORD DU PÉROU
200-700 AP. J.-C.
Mochica copper head of a feline, Northern Peru
Cuivre oxydé, coquillage et turquoise
h. 17 cm ; 6 3/4 et l. 18,5 cm ; 7 1/4 in
PROVENANCE
Collection Mathias Komor, New York, 1973
Collection Barbier-Mueller, Genève, Inv. n° 532-78
Estimate: €60,000-80,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of €240,000 (€289,500 with the buyer’s premium)

UPDATE: Additional sales coverage here.

The Sotheby’s March 22, 2013 auction of 313 lots of pre-Columbian artifacts from the Barbier-Muller collection has gotten the attention of Peruvian officials who claim that some 67 works in the sale were illicitly removed from Peru.  According to the Wall Street Journal:

Peru’s government believes that some Pre-Columbian pieces of art to be auctioned by Sotheby’s (BID) in Paris in March were taken out of Peru without proper permission decades ago.

The Peruvian government says that it has no information about how the pieces left Peru for the collection.

“It is possible to deduce that their exportation must have been clandestine, given that from April 2, 1822 Peruvian regulations prohibit the removing of archaeological goods without government authorization,” the Ministry of Culture said.

The government said it plans to “act rapidly to place charges that these goods were presumably obtained in an illicit manner.”

LOT 127VASE ANTHROPOMORPHE SURMONTÉ D’UNE ANSE-ÉTRIER CULTURE CUPISNIQUE CHAVIN, PÉROU 900-400 AV J.-C Cupisnic anthropomorphic stirrup-spout vessel, Chavin, Peru Céramique brun-gris à surface brillante avec rehauts de peinture rouge – test de thermoluminescence h. 28 cm ; 11 in PROVENANCE Galerie Roger Ferrero, Genève, 1969 Collection Barbier-Mueller, Genève, Inv. n° 532-70 Estimate: €80,000-100,000

LOT 127
VASE ANTHROPOMORPHE SURMONTÉ D’UNE ANSE-ÉTRIER
CULTURE CUPISNIQUE
CHAVIN, PÉROU
900-400 AV J.-C
Cupisnic anthropomorphic stirrup-spout vessel, Chavin, Peru
Céramique brun-gris à surface brillante avec rehauts de peinture rouge – test de
thermoluminescence
h. 28 cm ; 11 in
PROVENANCE
Galerie Roger Ferrero, Genève, 1969
Collection Barbier-Mueller, Genève, Inv. n° 532-70
Estimate: €80,000-100,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of €75,000 (€91,500 with the buyer’s premium)

The article continues:

Sotheby’s said in an email that it has not been contacted by Peru’s Culture Ministry, “but as is our practice, we would give careful consideration to any inquiry.”

“The works in the Barbier-Mueller collection have long ownership and exhibition histories, and matters like this relating to ancient artifacts typically depend on precise facts about the historical background of individual pieces,” the auction house said.

In an interview with Sotheby’s magazine, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller said that he has long collected Pre-Columbian art.

LOT 279VASE À ANSE-ÉTRIER EN FORME D’OURSIN CULTURE CHAVÍN CUPISNIQUE, PÉROU 900-400 AV. J.-C. Chavin stirrup-spout vessel, Cupisnique, Peru Céramique noire à surface vernissée sur le col h. 21,7 cm ; 8 1/2 in et d. 14 cm ; 5 1/2 in PROVENANCE Collection Josef Mueller, Soleure, avant 1952 Collection Barbier-Mueller, Genève, Inv. n° 532-24 Estimate: €18,000-20,000

LOT 279
VASE À ANSE-ÉTRIER EN FORME D’OURSIN
CULTURE CHAVÍN
CUPISNIQUE, PÉROU
900-400 AV. J.-C.
Chavin stirrup-spout vessel, Cupisnique, Peru
Céramique noire à surface vernissée sur le col
h. 21,7 cm ; 8 1/2 in et d. 14 cm ; 5 1/2 in
PROVENANCE
Collection Josef Mueller, Soleure, avant 1952
Collection Barbier-Mueller, Genève, Inv. n° 532-24
Estimate: €18,000-20,000

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2013 8:21 PM

    The location of these objects within the Barbier-Mueller collection has been long-known. Apparently the Peruvian Cultural Ministry has been sleeping at the wheel.

    • March 3, 2013 12:52 PM

      Thanks for your note – feedback is always appreciated and welcome. I can’t account for the Peruvian government’s timing. This may be the first public manifestation of a longer engagement, and/or the next phase of their broader repatriation efforts. It did take years for them to settle with Yale, and they may be able to handle so many cases at one time. Nevertheless, doing a quick count, some twenty lots in this sale from Peru lack a dated pre-1970 provenance, which would likely preclude any acquisition if one were following AAMD guidelines.

  2. March 18, 2013 3:54 PM

    These are items stolen, looted from the countries of origin, should be ashamed offer culture of peoples. We hope that governments who have denounced stop this violation.

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