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Auction of ‘stolen’ Nigerian treasures goes ahead in Paris

Christie’s proceeds with sale of artifacts, says the transaction lawful given that objects were sold at past auctions.

The Igbo Statues [Christie's]
The Igbo Statues

 

Auction house Christie’s has gone ahead with a sale of statues which Nigerian museum officials said were stolen during the country’s civil war in the 1960s.

Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments had demanded Christie’s stop the sale of the artifacts, which were collected by an art dealer and adviser of the late French President Jacques Chirac.

But at Monday’s auction in Paris, the pair of “museum quality” Igbo statues were sold for 212,500 euros ($239,000). Meanwhile, a “major Urhobo statue” estimated at 900,000 euros ($1m) failed to sell.

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The three pieces from southern Nigeria were among a number of “African masterpieces” that Christie’s said came from an “important European private collection” they declined to name.

However, the head of the National Museum in Nigeria’s Benin City had said the objects were stolen during the Biafran war that raged in the late 1960s and appealed to Christie’s “and other auction houses to halt the process immediately”.

“They have to repatriate such works and pay compensation to us in the interest of natural justice,” Theophilus Umogbai said.

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