Friday, July 04, 2014

Museum of Fine Arts Returns Eight Artifacts to Nigeria

Geoff Edgers, the Boston Globe
June 22, 2014 

Eight Nigerian artifacts that were probably stolen decades ago and illegally sent to the United States have been returned to the West African country by the Museum of Fine Arts, according to museum officials, who said Nigerian authorities planned to announce the transfer on Thursday.

The decision to return the artworks, including a 2,000-year-old terra-cotta head, was the culmination of an 18-month pursuit through dusty records and old gallery brochures, untangling an art-world mystery that spanned several continents. Along the way, the MFA discovered that one item, a brass altar figure, had probably been stolen from the royal palace in Benin City as recently as the 1970s.

All of the works were purchased by the late Marblehead collectors William and Bertha Teel, longtime supporters of the MFA, whose 2013 bequest gave the museum more than 300 works. The couple, according to the museum, had no idea of the shady provenance of items in their collection.

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