Yemeni astrolabe, 1291.

Red List Revealed at Metropolitan Museum Aims to Block Illegal Trade of Yemeni Objects

Political and cultural figures assembled at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last night to unveil a list of cultural artifacts in Yemen vulnerable to theft and sale on the international black market, according to Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper. Since the violent civil war in Yemen broke out in 2015, airstrikes and explosions have endangered numerous cultural sites and institutions, including the National Museum in Taiz, which caught fire in February 2016. More than one hundred mosques are currently threatened in the Old City of Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The emergency red list, created by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), includes gold and silver coins, bronze daggers, Arabic manuscripts, and astrolabes among the objects at risk of being trafficked. The list is considered preemptive, as few antiquities of Yemeni origin have appeared on the market. Only Yemeni authorities are able to issue documents for the import and export of cultural goods. “As we know, the lack of objects on the open market doesn’t meant that there isn’t an underground market in antiquities,” said Sheila Canby, the head curator of the Met’s Department of Islamic art. “The aim is to warn collectors to be vigilant.”

Among those gathered at the event were Met CEO and director Daniel H. Weiss, ICOM president Suay Aksoy, and Yemen ambassador Khaled Hussein Alyemany. “I come from a country deeply rooted in history that has been able to connect with many ancient civilizations,” Alyemany said. “Saving Yemen’s heritage is saving the world’s heritage.”