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French auctioneer defies Mexico with sale of pre-Columbian artifacts

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French auctioneer defies Mexico with sale of pre-Columbian artifacts

A kneeling stone figure of the Aztec water goddess Chalchiuhtlicue, one of the pre-Columbian artifacts, is presented to the press at the Drouot auction house in Paris, France, September 18, 2019. REUTERS / Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) – French auction house Millon denied the Mexican government's accusations that a sale of dozens of pre-Columbian artifacts was illegal and proceeded with an auction on Wednesday.

Mexico's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that 95 of the 120 pieces auctioned appear to be from Mexican cultures, including the iconic pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacan, as well as the Olmec and Mayan cultures.

Millon President Alexandre Millon told Reuters on Wednesday that Manichak and Jean Aurance, listed as owners of the artifacts, met all legal criteria to justify ownership of the collection, which they accumulated after falling in love with a piece. from a Paris gallery in Paris. 1963

"The problem for Mexico is that this collection is exemplary in every respect: provenance, publications and exhibitions in which it participated. This should make it a positive platform for Mexico," Millon said before the auction.

The collection includes sculptures, masks and religious artifacts from before 1000 BC until the 18th century AD.

"(The Mexican government) should use this auction to say 'Look at this sale, it's like the ones we need' in an effort to stop other auctions that might not take the same precautions," Millon continued.

Tensions over pre-Columbian works of art occur amid wider discussion about whether Western collectors and museums would return objects to their home countries. Collectors and museums often argue that they do not have proper care.

Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron became the first Western leader to initiate a comprehensive review of looted artifacts during the colonial period and promised to return 26 pieces to Benin.

Mexican Ambassador to France Juan Manuel Gomez-Robledo said: "Mexico is the rightful owner of these works of art and we came here to express our unhappiness and to explain why it violates not only Mexican law but also international law. "

Report by Antony Paone and Michaela Cabrera; Written by Benoit Van Overstraeten Editing by Richard Lough and Alexandra Hudson

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