World, Middle East

Israeli president voices concern at antique auction

Financial stress forces Jerusalem based Museum for Islamic Art to auction rare artifacts to raise money

Abdul-Raouf Arnavut   | 26.10.2020
Israeli president voices concern at antique auction


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday expressed concern at the selling of a valuable Islamic art collection, currently in the custody of the West Jerusalem-based Museum of Islamic Art.

The leading British auction company, Sotheby’s, has put more than 250 artifacts of the museum under the hammer. The museum is believed undergoing financial crises for over nearly two years, forcing it to sell some valuable artifacts to raise money.

"I follow with concern the issue of selling collections from the Museum of Islamic Art in West Jerusalem, including items of greater worth and significance than their monetary value," Rivlin said in a statement.

He called for moves in legal and international spheres to prevent the sale of these cultural assets from the region as a whole.

Israeli Hebrew language newspaper the Haaretz reported on Monday that the museum has come under further financial stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The newspaper claimed that 5% of the total inventory, approximately 5,525 pieces of artifacts, have been offered to go under the hammer at London auction.

"Among the items for sale are a wonderful Turkish rug, a unique Egyptian helmet, and some rare and unique jewelry," the report added.

On the other hand, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport Hili Tropper was quoted by Haaretz saying that his ministry "will use all public and legal means to prevent the sale of the museum's inalienable assets”.

According to Sotheby's website, the museum's artifacts for sale are estimated at around $9 million.

The Museum for Islamic Art in West Jerusalem was founded in 1965 by Vera Bryce Salomons, a descendant of a British-Jewish aristocratic family, and was first opened its doors to the public in 1974, according to the museum's website.

*Ibrahim Mukhtar contributed to this report from Ankara

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