he Mexican government argued Wednesday that a Mayan-style statue auctioned for a record $4 million (2.9 million euros) this week is a fake. Auctioneers insisted it is genuine and charged Mexico wants to quash legal sales of pre-Hispanic artifacts.
The stakes in the dispute are high — and not just because of the cash laid down by the as-yet unidentified buyer. A debate has been renewed about whether there is a place, if any, for sales of ancient artifacts.
The Paris-based Binoche Et Giquello auction house that sold the stucco figure of a shield-toting stucco warrior said the attack on its authenticity is an attempt by Mexican officials to shake confidence in the auction market for pre-Hispanic artifacts.
“They want to ruin the market for pre-Hispanic art, that is my opinion,” said auctioneer Alexandre Giquello.
Damaging the legal market could push such pieces onto the unregulated black market, he said. Auction houses are subject to public scrutiny, provenance and ownership challenges, while “on the black market, you have no control at all,” Giquello said.