German Art Collector Dirk Gemünde lost a court battle over an ancient mask stolen from Egypt. According to the German news agency DPA, a German court dismissed his argument and maintained a previous decision. Dirk Gemünden, 80, initiated the complaint towards the North Rhine-Westphalia administration.
German Art Collector Proved Provenance of One Object
The collector filed a complaint after officials confiscated a 2,000-year-old Egyptian funerary mask. There was also a 3,500-year-old brooch, taken from him in 2020. However, on Friday, the Düsseldorf Administrative Court concluded that the NRW Ministry of Culture was correct to take both objects. Why? It remained a possibility the items had been acquired unlawfully from Egypt.
Some believe the mask went missing when doing excavations between 2011 and 2017. This happened before French auction in 2017, as official stated. In 2020, Gemünden purchased three works of art from an American auction. These are the mask, the brooch and a 2,500-year-old coffin plaque. The third piece did not come within the Cultural Protection Act, as the buyer was able to show.
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Enacted in 2016, the law aims to stop the illegal trafficking of historically significant assets. The court determined that the mask and the brooch might be classified as Egyptian national cultural heritage. Overall, this process puts them in accordance with the regulations.
Similar Case in France
Overall, Gemünden informed the court that he believed the mask was in a private American citizen’s ownership since the 1970s. Judge Andreas Heusch, however, said he was amenable to Gemünden’s suggestion. He proposed that the masks should be displayed in a museum he and his wife founded.
The name of the institution is The Obentraut 3 Museum. He also said the process should happen before the pieces go back to Egypt and disappear “into some storage facility”. Artnet News contacted Gemünden for comment via the museum, but did not receive a response by time of publication. The ruling by the court occurs while a related reparation case is being heard by French courts.
The transitional government of Gabon, which underwent a military coup d’état in August, has begun a legal battle for the restitution of an antique mask. The item is already at the center of a lawsuit between an elderly couple and the antiques dealer they bought it from, who they believe cheated them out of higher profits from its sale.