Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has called on Israel to help prevent the sale of Islamic art pieces from Jerusalem's Museum of Islamic Art's storied collection.
According to the Art Newspaper, the Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem is due to sell 190 Islamic art objects and 68 rare timepieces from its collection in two Sotheby's London auctions tomorrow and on Wednesday.
Rivlin condemned the move in a statement, saying: "We must find the means available to the State of Israel in the legal and international spheres to prevent the sale of these cultural assets from the region as a whole."
He added that the Museum of Islamic Art, as well as the other museums across Israel "are the repositories of enormous spiritual and material assets for the State of Israel and the Middle East, and we must do all we can to keep them in Israel."
Nadim Sheiban, the museum director, explained in a statement that selling the art pieces will secure its long-term future and educational programming. He later added that the objects selected for auction were "mostly duplicates or in storage".
The decision came after two years of consideration due to limited government funding for what is "the only museum devoted to Islamic art within this conflict-ridden and divided region," Sheiban told the Israeli radio programme Gam Ken Tarbut.
The financial pressures have also worsened as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The sale of Islamic works, including objects, manuscripts, rugs and carpets, is estimated to bring a total of between $4.13 million and $6.1 million to the museum. The watches, which will be offered on the auction's second day, have a combined estimated worth of $2.2-$3.4 million.