Mexico seeks to halt 'illegal' auction of pre-Columbian art in Paris

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday urged French elite auction house Millon to halt what it called an “illegal” auction of 120 pieces of pre-Columbian artefacts at an event scheduled for Wednesday in Paris.

“The Mexican government rejects the illegal sale of pre-Columbian art,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that some artefacts appear to have been stolen or illegally sold while others may not be authentic.

Millon did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment outside business hours. Reuters was unable to contact Manichak and Jean Aurance, who are listed as the collectors on the Millon website.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in the statement that 95 of the 120 pieces appear to be from Mexican cultures, including the emblematic pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacan, as well as the Olmeca and Maya cultures.

“Reducing them to decorative objects undermines the integrity of cultures and therefore that of all humanity,” said Bernardo Aguilar, general manager for Europe, at a press conference.

The tensions over the pre-Columbian art pieces come amid a wider discussion over whether Western collectors and museums should return objects to their countries of origin. Collectors and museums often argue that there they lack adequate care.

French President Emmanuel Macron last year became the first Western leader to initiate a comprehensive review of artefacts looted during colonial times and promised to return 26 pieces to Benin.

Reporting by Sharay Angulo; Additional reporting by Anthony Esposito and Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Gerry Doyle