A 3000-year-old Assyrian artifact is about to go on sale at Christie’s auction house in New York where it is expected to fetch more than $10 million.
However, the Iraqi government has demanded a halt to the sale of the two meter frieze and is demanding the plundered artifact is returned to its native Iraq.
The rare antiquity, which depicts the deity known as Apkallu, or “winged genius,” was excavated in the middle of the 19th century from the ruins of the Northwest Palace in Nimrud, in what is present-day Iraq.
Demonstrators are planning to congregate outside the sale room demanding its return.
Update: The rare Assyrian relief sold for $31 million at Christie’s antiquities auction in New York on Wednesday, tripling its pre-sale estimate of $10 million and setting a new auction record for Assyrian art.
RT reports: The exquisitely-detailed artefact, which depicts an Assyrian deity, will go under the hammer at Christie’s in New York on Tuesday – with critics of the high profile art sale claiming that the piece belongs in a museum, preferably in Iraq.
The seven-foot-tall (2.1 meters) frieze is believed to have been purloined from an ancient Assyrian palace in Nimrud, in what is now present-day Iraq, in the mid-nineteenth century. The sculpture was packaged up and shipped westward by an enterprising young Brit who was reportedly given permission by the Ottomans to carry out his ancient treasure hunt. The relief eventually found its way to the United States, sitting largely forgotten in a Virginia seminary. A routine audit conducted last year revealed the sculpture’s true value, sending insurance costs through the roof.
A spokesman for Christie’s told CNN that the auction house had been reassured that there is no legal basis for any foreign nation to claim ownership of the ancient artefact – but Baghdad begs to differ. Iraq’s Ministry of Culture has demanded that the panel be returned to Iraq, while activists are reportedly planning to demonstrate outside the auction house during the sale.
Social media users also expressed anger about the auction, arguing that the sculpture is a stolen artefact and should be returned to its native land.
“This is an Assyrian artifact, this belongs in the community back home in Iraq. How can something from ME be sold on American soil?” one Twitter user asked.
This is an Assyrian artifact, this belongs in the community back home in Iraq … How can something from ME be sold on American soil?
— Eddie Abbasi ⁶ (@CoachAbbasi) October 30, 2018
This sculpture is a stolen Iraqi artifact. Civilized World must stand up to stop selling it in the Auction. https://t.co/62PP818AyP
— Ismael Alsodani (@IAlsodani) October 30, 2018
Others took issue with the very idea of selling such an invaluable piece of human history to private buyers.
Should not be up for sale. It is part of human culture and should be in a museum.
— magenta96 (@valleylily56) October 30, 2018