Update IV: On the Now-Cancelled Sale of a Benin Ivory Pendant Mask at Sotheby's
… the statement suggests that the consignees withdrew the artwork, which to me suggests that Sotheby’s itself is not necessarily concerned about its criminal involvement in the trafficking of stolen cultural patrimony. Would they have gone ahead with the sale if the consignees decided to brazen it out?
He finds some reason for optimism though:
In that regard, it seems the massive public outrage of Nigerians and other supporters succeeded in preventing an overt sale of the artwork. Of course, the consignees could simply sell it in private but any museum or private collector that now buys the artwork is knowingly purchasing a contested object. For those who do, we will no doubt see legal challenges to several institutions that hold Benin cultural patrimony in due time.
I won’t quote in any detail his responses so in particular Jonathan Fine and Alexander Soifer but encourage you to read his blog post instead (its too late and I have already spend for too much time on compiling the last post).