More Looted Artifacts at Hobby Lobby
Back in 2017, Hobby Lobby agreed to return thousands of smuggled clay artifacts they bought in 2010 and paid a fine of $3 million. Well, now it has come to light that another piece in their collection – Gilgamesh Dream Tablet – was illegally smuggled out of Iraq.
According to several articles, Hobby Lobby paid $1.6 million to an unnamed auction room (finding the name was pretty easy – here is a link to a PDF from Christie’s featuring the item) for the 6 1/4 x 4 3/4 inch tablet. It has also been revealed that the provenance listed was fictitious; it seems the work was stolen in 1991 and not sold by a California auction room in 1981.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave…
Hobby Lobby, in fact, returned the looted tablet to Iraq. According to an article written a few months after our post, Hobby Lobby filed a suit against Christie’s for fraud and breach of warranty for selling the antiquity.
In a statement announcing the government’s move to return a piece of Iraq’s cultural history, Richard P. Donoghue, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, notes that “in this case, a major auction house failed to meet its obligations by minimizing its concerns that the provenance of an important Iraqi artifact was fabricated, and withheld from the buyer information that undermined the provenance’s reliability.”
Christie’s stated that they had done their due diligence that the work had been sold through Butterfield and Butterfield in 1981 before all US imports of Iraqi artifacts were banned. However, the seller of the tablet admitted to fabricating the history of ownership. Hobby Lobby is seeking the return of $1.67 million-plus interest and legal fees.