Stolen Benin bronze found in Zürich

Stolen from Jos, Nigeria, Benin bronze turns up in Zürich auction house



About three years ago after it was stolen from the museum in Jos (Nigeria), a precious bronze head, a work of the Benin culture, is about to return to its owners. During a ceremony in Lagos in January, the Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland handed it over to the minister of culture, Major General Yohanna Kure. The fifteenth-century “memorial head of a king” was discovered at a Zürich auctioneer’s where it was due to be sold in December 1990. It was confiscated and, until its voyage home, the Museum Rietberg in Zürich took care of it. The sculpture, valued at around $1 million (£510,000), had figured on the Unesco list of stolen works of art.

Security in Nigerian museums and galleries has been tightened to prevent thefts and vandalism, and the government in Lagos has repeated its call for stronger support to retrieve more of the national art treasures. Much valuable Nigerian art left the country during the colonial period and is now in collections all over the world. Nigeria has intensified its efforts to get those works back, with little success so far.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'King returns'