The illustrious auction house, Christie’s, announced that it had been asked to sell Libyan antiquities stolen during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. The illegal origin of the items was discovered using Christie’s detection procedures. They were submitted to be auctioned in Dubai.
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During the chaos of the Libyan revolution, thousands of artifacts were stolen from archaeological sites, museums, and bank vaults throughout the country. The items include antiquities from the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods. However, such items are fairly easy to recognize, even without Christie’s rigorous methods to check for fake or stolen items.
“When Libya was having trouble as a consequence of the Arab Spring and the downfall of Gaddafi, works from Libyan museums can onto the international art market within a very short period of time,” said Christie’s managing director for growth markets, Paul Hewitt. “But they are conspicuous and high-profile; therefore, we are alert to them, and we absolutely do not touch them. We refuse them instantly and moreover we alert the authorities that we have been offered something, and then they take it into their hands.” Christie’s also refuses to auction items whose ownership is disputed.
Christie’s is in the second day of a two-day auction at the Emirates Towers hotel. The auction is focused on modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian, and Turkish art. The total value of the lots is $30 million, including $20 million in jewelry and watches and $10 million in artwork. Christie’s maintains an office at the Dubai International Financial Centre.