Hopi masks sacred to tribe snapped up after French court allows auction

April 15, 2013

(Antique tribal masks revered as sacred ritual artifacts by a Native American tribe in Arizona are displayed at an auction house in Paris April 11, 2013. REUTERS/John Schults)

An auction of ancient masks revered as sacred by a Native American tribe has fetched more than 750,000 euros, disappointing prominent opponents of the sale after a French court ruled it should go ahead.

The Hopi tribe of northeastern Arizona and supporters including the U.S. ambassador to France and actor Robert Redford had urged the Paris auction house to suspend the sale due to the masks’ cultural and religious significance.

But the court rejected a motion from the tribe and Survival International, a non-government group representing its interests, arguing that it could only intervene to protect human remains or living beings.

The auction went ahead on Friday in front of a standing-room only crowd, raising about 752,000 euros ($984,500) in pre-tax proceeds as collectors snapped up dozens of lots in a sale that lasted more than two hours.

The most expensive, a crow-mother mask, went for 160,000 euros.

(A detail of at antique tribal mask, Tumas Crow Mother, circa 1880, revered as a sacred ritual artifact by a Native American tribe in Arizona is displayed at an auction house in Paris April 11, 2013.REUTERS/John Schults)


Read the full story by Tara Oakes here.
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