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The Ministry of Culture and Sports is legally claiming the bronze figurine from Sotheby's

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The Minister of Culture and Sports, Lina Mendoni, had a meeting yesterday at the New York Public Prosecutor's Office with Matthew Bogdanos, Assistant Prosecutor, Head of the Anti-Trafficking Service, and his associates.

Ms. Mendoni presented to Mr. Bogdanos a series of issues that are being processed by the Ministry of Culture for the claim and repatriation of antiquities, which have been identified in collections in America. Mr Bogdanos was thoroughly informed and asked for information that might allow him to start their investigation. The Minister of Culture and Sports explained to the assistant prosecutor the course of the legal claim of ownership of the bronze horse figurine of the 8th century. BC. The object has been illegally exported from Greek territory.

It is a bronze horse figurine, dating to the 8th century. e.g. It was to be auctioned by Sotheby's in New York on May 14, 2018, along with other items from the Barnet collection, with an estimated starting price of between $ 150.000 and $ 250.000. Regarding the origin of the figurine, the house mentioned the following sequence of the movable monument. It was first auctioned by Münzen und Medaillen AG in Basel, Switzerland, on May 6, 1967. The British antiquarian Robin Symes - a partner of Michaelides - probably acquired it at auction. Howard and Saretta Barnet purchased the item from Robin Symes on November 16, 1973 and owned it until their deaths.

The Ministry of Culture had requested, on May 4, 2018, from Interpol to investigate all the documents for the acquisition of the figurine, with emphasis on the documents related to its first auction, in 1967, in order to determine the time and manner of its export from Hellas. However, the investigation was fruitless due to the passage of half a century from the auction and the destruction of the Swiss house documents. YPPOA claimed its return from its current owners, the heirs of the couple Howard and Saretta Barnet, but also from Sotheby's, which was going to auction it on behalf of the former!

And the unprecedented thing happened: The heirs of the Barnets and Sotheby's filed a lawsuit against the Greek state, asking the court to recognize the Barnet family as the owner of the figurine, as, according to them, the Greek state did not may own the property, and allow Sotheby's to sell the figurine on behalf of the Barnet family.

The Ministry of Culture sent an official letter to the house requesting the withdrawal of the bronze statuette from the auction due to the lack of documents for its legal export from Greek territory, but also the location of the photograph of the object, confiscated in Schinoussa, in 2006. Michaelides. He also asked for the house's cooperation in the repatriation of the figurine as an ancient movable monument, which belongs exclusively to the Greek state, in accordance with Greek archaeological legislation and international conventions.

Sotheby's withdrew the bronze figurine on the eve of the auction, because the intervention of Greece, as he stated in a letter to the Ministry of Culture, caused a "cloud of doubt" around the object and affected its commercial value. In the same letter he asked to be provided with specific information about the time and manner of his export from the country within a very strict time limit, which in no way was sufficient for the official translation of the documents that had to be sent in support of the Greek positions.

The decision issued by the District Court of the Southern District of New York, June 21, 2019, rejected the request of the Greek side due to the incompetence of the American courts to hear a case related to the ownership of the Greek state. The Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with Legal Council of the State, hired a lawyer, in order to defend the interests of the Greek state in the trial based on the provisions of the archaeological law, according to which the ancient movable monuments belong to the exclusive ownership and prefecture of the Greek state, are ineligible and ineligible can not be traded.

Ms. Lina Mendoni told the assistant prosecutor that the lawsuit against Greece is unprecedented. This is the first time an anti-government lawsuit has been filed, as it is usually the countries that go to court to claim antiques from auction houses, private collectors, but also museums, not looters and anti-government auction houses. , claiming objects of their cultural heritage. For this reason, the legal claim of the object has multifaceted dimensions. The verdict of this case will not only concern the claim of Greece. Antiquities cannot be equated with works of art. Antiquities are intertwined with the history and cultural heritage of the peoples.

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