After outcry, Jerusalem museum calls off sale of Islamic art

Israel’s premier museum for Islamic art has scrapped the planned auction of scores of rare and precious items after public outcry over the attempted sale, which had been expected to fetch millions of dollars from wealthy private collectors.

In a settlement announced today by the museum, Sotheby’s and the Qatari Al Thani Collection Foundation, the Sotheby’s auction house would return items from the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem currently in London back to Israel immediately.

The facade of the LA Mayer Museum for the Islamic Arts in Jerusalem. (Courtesy, Sotheby’s)

The Al Thani Collection, an art foundation linked to the ruling family of the energy-rich Gulf Arab state of Qatar, “will generously provide an annual sponsorship to the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art” during a 10-year period, while one of the Islamic Art Museum’s pieces will be given on long-term loan to the Al Thani Collection’s gallery at the Hotel de la Marine in Paris.

Nearly 270 items from the museum’s collection, including several centerpiece objects and prized antique watches, were slated for auction at Sotheby’s in October. News of the sale drew wide public criticism in Israel.