Spoils of War: Excavating the Underground Trade in Buddhist Antiquities By Shahan Mufti
Shahan Mufti analyzes the growth of the Western market in antiquities from the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, which lies on the border between present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the historical context of war looting, from Alexander the Great all the way through the Iraq War. Traveling from a Christie’s auction house in New York to Northwest Pakistan, Mufti meets with black-market antiquities dealers, discovers Gandharan relics to be a profitable trade for the Taliban, and learns how Western collectors and curators continue to turn a blind eye to recent histories of the ancient objects they acquire.
Christie’s just announced a Central Asian art auction. On the catalog cover for the auction that begins on March 22 is an emaciated Buddha, the iconic Gandharan relic on which Mufti’s piece ends. It is estimated to sell for as much as $6 million, which would represent a new record for art of its kind.
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