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Nota Policromática

28 February 2010

Ignacio Dávalos, in Sunday’s Milenio had a crime story involving a bit more color than your usual nota roja (my translation):

Guadalajara Are you a budding narco, moving up the ranks and finding you finally have disposable income?  Did you have a big dream when you were a child about buying your mom that perfect Virgin of Guadalupe?  If so, then this may be the place for you.

On Wednesday, agents from the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR, for the initials in Spanish) and the Nacional Insitote of Anthopology and History (INAH) raided the Casa Terranova Art Gallery, in the historic center of Tlaquepaque, recovering two pieces of sacred art dating from the 18th century:  “The Adoration of the Magi” and “The Birth of the Virgen”, both being offered to the public at the low, low price of a mere 35 thousand U.S. dollars.

No one seems to be sure how the two works ended up in the center of this historic (and trendy) Guadalajara suburb.  What is known is that the two works were illegally removed (ok… robbed) from Santa Matilde Church in Pachuca, Hidalgo on 5 September 2008.  Following investigation by the Federal Investigative Unit for Environmental and Special Crimes, together with Federal and Jalisco State Police, all under the coordination of the INAH’s divisions of Judicial Affairs and Conservation of Nacional Patrimony, the pieces were located, and last Wednesday, reclaimed from the Terranova Gallery, Indpendencia 156 in downtown historic Tlaquepaque.

Despite the mess, the gallery has not closed its doors.  On its website, Casa Terranova describes itself as “… a gallery that manages, retrieves, maintains and promotes ancient, modern and contemporary art, with the goal of making Mexican art available to the world. For over 25 years we have acquired works of art of major significance, creating a collection and cultural space worthy of acquisition.”

– “But, how did you end up with these works?  Wasn’t there some way to ascertain their origin before they were offered to the public?”  Said a clerk, wishing to remain anonymous, “When you’re an antiques dealer it is very difficult to know what the origin of the pieces that are purchased. You buy and sell in this world in good. But, this isn’t an uncommon problem… we were just the last link in a chain of purchasers.  We are tranquil and this is something our lawyers can fix.”

When asked about other similar works the Gallery might have for sale, the clerk refused to answer any more questions.   “We don’t want any more problems,” he said.

The reality is that there are such galleries (several of them in Tlaquepaque) where one can order works from the 17th century onwards, mostly sacred art, with prices ranging from  $500 for contemporary crafts to over one hundred thousand dollars. Surely, dozens of these pieces, traveled long roads and passed through many hands before reaching the shops, but for now, two of them are being returned to their rightful owner and their place of origin.

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