Just when it seemed relations between France and Mexico could not get any worse, a bitter dispute has erupted following the Mexican government’s claim that a Mayan-style statue sold at a Paris auction for a record €2.9m (£2.56m) was a fake.
However, the mood soured when France declared it would use the occasion to push for the release of Florence Cassez, 36, a French woman jailed for 60 years in Mexico for kidnapping.
Mexico retaliated by pulling out of the celebrations – meaning no Mexican involvement in the Year of Mexico’s 350 planned celebrations, films and symposia.
The auction house had dated Seated Divinity to between 550 and 950, and the Mexican culture ministry had written a foreword to the sale catalogue.
However, the Mexican ministry in charge of archaeology described the warrior, previously held in a Swiss private collection, as a mix of different elements that could not be found in one culture. It highlighted the figure’s lace-up sandals and seated position, saying the style was incompatible with the period it was said to have been made.
The ministry claimed 66 more pieces at the auction a week ago were forgeries.
The Mexican authorities are opposed to the sale of their country’s antiquities and are demanding their return. A 1972 law in Mexico limits private collections and items excavated since that date have been considered state property. Exports of ancient artefacts are banned.
Giquello said that damage to confidence in legal sales of ancient artefacts could drive the market underground. Auction houses are were strictly regulated while "on the black market you have no control at all", he told the Associated Press.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010