Today’s Auction of Purportedly Looted Artifact Exceeds Expectations
Christie’s offered the rare opportunity to own “an iconic work of art from the 3rd millennium BC.” The auction house describes the truly exceptional object as follows:
Standing 9 inches high, the Guennol Stargazer is one of the finest and largest preserved Anatolian marble female idols of Kiliya type — and will be offered in the Exceptional Sale on 28 April at Christie’s in New York. The Guennol Stargazer is from the Chalcolithic period, between 3000 and 2200 BC, and is considered to be one of the most impressive of its type known to exist. It is further distinguished by its exhibition history, having been on loan at The Metropolitan Museum of Art at various periods from 1966 to 2007.
The Guennol Stargazer garnered a great deal of attention, with the sale estimated to bring in about £2million. However, today’s sale exceeded all expectations with the hammer price being $12,700,000. Although auction results often exceed estimates, this sale was particularly surprising because the work’s legal title is in dispute. Turkey claims that the work was looted and that it should have never been placed up for auction.
Then today, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey posted an open letter in the NY Times (see the image below to read the text) calling for the return of objects looted from Turkey. The letter praises institutions and collectors who have shown good faith and repatriated looted works to their origin nation. The letter does not mention the Guennol Stargazer (although the silhouette of the object appears on the top of the page), but the meaning of this letter is not lost to anyone in the antiquities field.
As the legal title of this object is in dispute, a U.S. court ruled that Christie’s cannot release the work to the purchaser until a final determination on its legality is made.