Tutankhamun bust faces London sale despite Egyptian outcry

The 3,000-year-old stone bust of Tutankhamun, above, set to be auctioned on July 4 by Christie’s in London, has set off a diplomatic tug-of-war with Cairo. (Christie’s Auction House/AFP)
Updated 04 July 2019

Tutankhamun bust faces London sale despite Egyptian outcry

  • The famous pharaoh’s finely-chiseled face comes from the private Resandro Collection of ancient art
  • Former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass said that the piece appears to have been ‘stolen’ in the 1970s from the Karnak Temple complex

LONDON: A 3,000-year-old bust of Egyptian “Boy King” Tutankhamun goes under the hammer on Thursday in London despite an outcry from Cairo.
Christie’s auction house expects the 28.5-centimeter (11-inch) quartz relic to fetch more than $5 million (£4 million) at one of its most controversial auctions in years.
The famous pharaoh’s finely-chiseled face — its calm eyes and puffed lips emoting a sense of eternal peace — comes from the private Resandro Collection of ancient art that Christie’s last sold in 2016 for £3 million.
But angry Egyptian officials want the sale halted and the treasure returned.
Christie’s decision “contradicts international agreements and conventions,” Egypt’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass said that the piece appears to have been “stolen” in the 1970s from the Karnak Temple complex.
“We think it left Egypt after 1970 because in that time other artefacts were stolen from Karnak Temple,” Hawass said.
Christie’s counters that Egypt had never before expressed the same level of concern about a bust whose existence has been “well known and exhibited publicly” for many years.
“The object is not, and has not been, the subject of an investigation,” it said in a statement to AFP Wednesday.
The auction house has published a chronology of how the relic changed hands between European art dealers over the past 50 years.
Its oldest attribution from 1973-74 places it in the collection of Prince Wilhelm of Thurn and Taxi in modern-day Germany.
Yet that account was called into doubt by a report from the Live Science news site last month suggesting that Wilhelm never owned the piece.
Wilhelm was “not a very art-interested person,” his niece Daria told the news site.
A journalist and art historian who knew Wilhelm told Live Science site that the prince had no arts collection at all.
Tutankhamun is thought to have become a pharaoh at the age of nine and to have died about 10 years later.
His rule would have probably passed without notice were it not for the 1922 discovery by Britain’s Howard Carter of his nearly intact tomb.
The lavish find revived interest in ancient Egypt and set the stage for subsequent battles over ownership of cultural masterpieces unearthed in colonial times.
Tutankhamun became commonly known as King Tut and made into the subject of songs and films.
International conventions and the British government’s own guidance restrict the sale of works that were known to have been stolen or illegally dug up.
The British Museum has been wrangling for decades with Greece over its remarkable room full of marble Parthenon friezes and sculptures.
Egypt’s own campaign to recover lost art gained momentum after numerous works went missing during the looting that accompanied former president Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power in 2011.
Cairo has managed to regain hundreds of looted and stolen artefacts by working with both auction houses and international cultural groups.
But Egypt has been unable to substantiate its case with firm proof that the Tutankhamun bust was illegally obtained.
Christie’s said that it would “not sell any work where there isn’t clear title of ownership.”


Bad week for Mexico tourism capped by mis-translations

Updated 08 August 2020

Bad week for Mexico tourism capped by mis-translations

  • The snafu has prompted former president Felipe Calderón to write in his Twitter account: “Stop making Mexico look ridiculous!”
  • Local media reports say the errors may have been introduced by a web services supplier angry about not being paid

MEXICO CITY: It has been a bad week for Mexican tourism promotion, and it got worse Friday when the English language version of the country’s tourism website appeared with hilarious mis-translations.
Entire states like Hidalgo and Guerrero apparently got machine translated as “Noble” and “Warrior.”
Worse for the VisitMexico.com site, there was systematic and inexplicable re-invention of the names of some fairly well-known tourist towns. The Caribbean resort of Tulum somehow became “Jumpsuit.” The nearby lagoon of Bacalar, on the Caribbean coast, was switched to the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.
The snafu came one day after the US State Department cited the high number of COVID-19 cases in Mexico for issuing a “do not travel” advisory for the country, its highest level of warning. Hours earlier, the resort of Acapulco was forced to pull “anything goes” tourism ads that showed people partying without masks and the words “there are no rules.”
But the problems at VisitMexico.com drew howls of hilarity — and anger. The Pacific coast resort of Puerto Escondido became “Hidden Port,” a literal translation, and the northern city of Torreon became “Turret,” which is kind of close.
Some name changes were just inexplicable and appeared to have as much to do with invention as simple translation. The central Mexican town of Aculco somehow became “I Blame,” and the northern Gulf coast city of Ciudad Madero became “Log.”
“Stop making Mexico look ridiculous!” former President Felipe Calderón wrote in his Twitter account.
Mexico’s Tourism Department issued a statement apologizing for the apparently out-sourced errors, but then made it sound like something sinister had been involved.
“The Tourism Department expresses its most sincere apologies to the public and users for the effects that have occurred on the website VisitMexico,” the statement said. “Moreover, we make it known that these acts aim to damage the image of the website and the department, and so therefore a criminal complaint has been filed and appropriate legal actions will be taken against those responsible.”
The department did not explain that claim, but local media reported the dispute might involve a web services supplier angry about not being paid.
On Thursday, officials took down a pair of Acapulco video ads touting the faded resort’s reputation as a nightclubbing spot — despite the fact nightclubs are currently closed to enforce social distancing. They said the ads weren’t appropriate during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have stopped being a postcard from the past, today we have changed the rules,” says a narration in one of the videos. “In fact, there are no rules,” says another voice, as people can be seen eating bizarre meals and going out to night clubs. “Eat whatever you want, have fun day and night and into the early morning hours ... find new friends and new loves.”