Greece Appeals US Court Decision over Ancient Bronze Statue

Greece’s Ministry of Culture and Sports has appealed a recent New York State Court decision in favor of Sotheby’s fine-art brokerage company over the ownership of an ancient Greek bronze equine statue.

The bronze statue, dating back to the eighth century BC, with an estimated value of  $150,000 to $250,000, was scheduled to be auctioned off on May 14, 2018.

However, the Greek ministry intervened just one day before the auction, claiming rightful ownership of the antiquity, and challenging the way in which the statue was obtained, stating that it had been illegally exported from Greece.

In response, on June 5, 2018, Sotheby’s and the family of the late collectors Howard and Saretta Barnet — who claim that the 14 cm (5.5 inch) high bronze statue had been bought legally in 1973 — filed a lawsuit in a New York court against the Greek Ministry, seeking to establish title to the statue.

Sotheby’s claimed that the Greek government had not presented concrete evidence that the artifact had been illegally removed from Greek territory. According to the publication The Financial Times, this was thought to be the first time Sotheby’s had ever filed a lawsuit against an entire government.

The court denied Greece’s motion on June 21, 2019, finding that the court had subject matter jurisdiction over the case, pursuant to the commercial activity exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, or FSIA.

Greece’s Ministry of Culture and Sports, through the law firms of Amineddoleh & Associates LLC and Foley Hoag LLP, have now appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, reasserting its claim of dominion over the ancient statue.