Georgina Adam tells the whole story surrounding the Mexican government’s declaration of a €3m Mayan statue as a fake.
In a widely circulated statement the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its National Institute of Anthropology and History said that the Classic period (550-950 AD) piece was “manufactured recently”. The grimacing stucco figure brandishing an axe was the star lot in a sale of pre-Colombian art at Drouot in Paris on March 21 and was sold by Binoche Giquello; its €2.9m price set a new record for pre-Colombian art. According to Jacques Blazy, specialist for the sale, the Mexican denunciation is politically motivated, “defamatory” and “absurd”.
The statue was part of the collection of a Swiss businessman, Henry Law, and, says Blazy: “It has been widely shown, notably in the Swiss Rath Museum in 1998 [Mexique Terre des Dieux]; the catalogue introduction was written by the Mexican Ministry of Culture, so they had no problem at the time,” says Blazy, who has “total confidence in the piece”.
Behind this saga is a long-running battle between Latin-American countries and France over the sale of pre-Colombian artefacts. Mexico in particular has been demanding the return of archaeological pieces, and even had 10 lots seized from another sale at Drouot in 2008, accusing the owners of theft and handling stolen goods.
The Art Market: Madness in the Art Market (Financial Times)