Archive for May 5th, 2010

Indonesian shipwreck auction closes with no sales

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Nary a single Imperial porcelain dish of the $80 million treasure sold at today’s auction. In fact, nary a single bid was received for any of the lots. Some 20 collectors expressed interest (thanks to Bingley for that link) in bidding for pieces the day before the auction, but since the auction opened and then instantly closed, that means none of the interested parties were willing to cough up the enormous $16 million deposit required from all would-be bidders.

So what now?

Fadel Muhammad, the Maritime and Fisheries Minister and chairman the National Committee of Excavation and Utilization of Precious Artifacts from Sunken Ships, said the committee, which oversees the auction, would need weeks or a month to decide what to do next.

“The next step is we will have a meeting among the committee, and then we will decide what we will be doing according to the regulation…of course we will consult with the president,” he said.

I imagine they’ll reschedule with a less absurd deposit requirement. However, this delay also gives the burgeoning protests time to burgeon even more. Archaeologists, as usual, vocally oppose the sale and dispersal of rare and precious cultural patrimony, but they’re not the only ones who have a problem with this auction. No less a personage than Sultan Sepuh XIV Pangeran Raja Adipati Arief Natadiningrat of the Cirebon Sultanate (the shipwreck was found in Cirebon waters) has expressed profound dismay.

“The big family of the Cirebon Kasepuhan Sultanate grieves deeply over the auction plan. The late Sultan XIII tried to prevent the auction by sending letters to the President and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister, but he did not receive any response,” the [current] sultan said.

Pangeran Raja Adipati Arief said he was saddened by the thought that Indonesian students would have to go abroad to learn about their nation’s history because the auction was bound to attract foreign buyers.

The government obviously was as little swayed by appeals from royalty as they were by appeals from scholars, but now that the big money buyers have failed to materialize, there may be an opening here.

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