April 12, 2013

Auction house sells Hopi masks

Despite objections from Hopi tribe, Native American masks sold off at auction in France

By Thomas AdamsonIn a chaotic auction repeatedly interrupted by protests, dozens of Native American tribal masks were sold Friday after a French court ignored the objections of the Hopi tribe and the U.S. government.

The total tally was 931,000 euros ($1.2 million), with the most expensive, the "Mother Crow," selling for 160,000 euros ($209,000)—more than three times the pre-sale estimate.

Of the 70 masks up for sale, one was bought by an association to give back to the Hopis, the Drouot auction house said.

Advocates for the Hopi tribe had argued in court the masks have special status and are not art—they represent their dead ancestors' spirits. The Hopis, a Native American tribe whose territory is surrounded by Arizona, nurture the masks as if they are the living dead.
Hopi tribe masks fetch record prices at Paris auctionOne buyer who acquired four masks said he was delighted to be adding to his collection of Hopi artefacts.

"One day I might give some back," the collector, who declined to be identified, told Reuters news agency.

"But if it had not been for collectors in the 19th Century who contributed to the field of ethnology, there would very little knowledge of the Hopi."

Two museums in Arizona and members of the Hopi tribe had demanded the sale be called off.

The actor Robert Redford has also been supporting the 18,000-strong Hopi tribe and describes himself as their "close friend."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Auction House vs. Hopi on Masks and French Plan to Auction Hopi Masks.

Below:  "An American exchange student, member of the Hopi tribe, Bo Lomahquahu, speaks to the media as he protests outside of the Druout's auction house to protest the auction of Native American Hopi tribe masks in Paris, Friday, April 12, 2013. A contested auction of dozens of Native American tribal masks went ahead Friday afternoon following a Paris court ruling, in spite of appeals for a delay by the Hopi tribe, its supporters including actor Robert Redford, and the U.S. government." (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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