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Met Pays the Ransom for an Albright-Knox Antiquity

The Met’s New Acquisition, ex-Albright Knox

The Metropolitan Museum paid a stiff price to reclaim one of the Albright-Knox Gallery’s deaccessions for the public domain. Exceeded in price only by “Artemis and the Stag” at the Buffalo museum’s antiquities sell-off at Sotheby’s on June 7 was the Elamite (southeastern Iran) copper figure of a horned hero (above), ca. 3000-2800 B.C.

It’s the second of the Albright-Knox’s orphans to find a good home at a major museum. Its $3.18-million price (which Bloomberg had previously reported was paid by New York dealer Robert Haber as agent for “an unnamed U.S. museum,” now identified as the Met) was even more astonishing than the $28.6 million lavished by dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi (bidding for an unnamed European private collector) on the more celebrated late Hellenistic/early Roman Imperial bronze that was the sale’s top lot.

The Met’s acquisition, a mere 6 7/8 inches high, was estimated by the auction house to bring only $150,000 to $250,000. It’s interesting and a bit surprising that the museum was able to muster an amount so wildly in excess of the expected price.

And it’s distressing that such a heavy ransom must be exacted from a public institution to rescue what should never have left the public domain in the first place.

an ArtsJournal blog