Peru asks Sotheby's to suspend auction of pre-Columbian items

Paris, Mar 22 (EFE).- The Peruvian government has taken another step to block the auction of a pre-Columbian art collection with a request to Sotheby's that it suspend the sale scheduled to begin Friday in Paris.

The Peruvian embassy said Friday that the request was sent both to the appropriate French authorities and to Sotheby's, which was also asked to repatriate the pieces.

The Barbier-Mueller collection, one of the most important of this kind of art in the world, could take in as much as 15 million euros ($19.4 million).

Made up of 313 lots, the collection contains 69 items from Peru, whose Culture Ministry said early this month that it would file a complaint against Sotheby's.

The collection was started in 1920 by Josef Mueller and was continued by his son-in-law Jean-Paul Barbier-Mueller. Peruvian authorities consider it very probable that the works were smuggled out of the country.

In a statement sent Friday to Efe, Sotheby's let it be known that over the past few months it has researched the provenance of the pieces and is confident they can be put up for sale.