News / Arts & Entertainment

Hopi Masks Snapped Up After French Court Allows Sale

Antique tribal masks, revered as sacred ritual artifacts by the Hopi Native American tribe in Arizona, are displayed at an auction house in Paris, April 11, 2013.
Antique tribal masks, revered as sacred ritual artifacts by the Hopi Native American tribe in Arizona, are displayed at an auction house in Paris, April 11, 2013.
Reuters
An auction of ancient masks revered as sacred by a Native American tribe fetched more than 750,000 euros on Friday, 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 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.

An antique tribal mask, Tumas Crow Mother, circa 1880, is displayed at an auction house in Paris, April 11, 2013.An antique tribal mask, Tumas Crow Mother, circa 1880, is displayed at an auction house in Paris, April 11, 2013.
x
An antique tribal mask, Tumas Crow Mother, circa 1880, is displayed at an auction house in Paris, April 11, 2013.
An antique tribal mask, Tumas Crow Mother, circa 1880, is displayed at an auction house in Paris, April 11, 2013.
The most expensive, a crow-mother mask, went for 160,000 euros.

A buyer who acquired four masks said he was delighted to be adding to his collection of Hopi artifacts.

"One day I might give some back,'' said the collector, who declined to be identified. "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."

Some disagreed. A man with Hopi origins studying in France was kicked out of the auction room for interrupting the sale with an angry speech. Several people trying to take photographs were also removed.

"We have lots of art that can be shared with other cultures, but not these,'' said Bo Lomahquahu, 25. "Children aren't even supposed to see them.''

The Neret-Minet, Tessier and Sarrou auctioneers said their collection of masks, priced between $2,000 and $32,000 apiece, was assembled by "an amateur with assured taste'' who lived in the United States for three decades.

A spokeswoman for the auctioneers was not immediately available for comment.

"This decision is very disappointing,'' said Pierre Servan-Schreiber, the lawyer for Survival International, a London-based advocacy group. "Not everything is necessarily up for sale or purchase, and we need to be careful.''

'Criminal Gesture'

A chorus of opponents had weighed in on the dispute, arguing the Paris auction house should provide legal justification for selling the masks.

"To auction these would be in my opinion a sacrilege, a criminal gesture that contains grave moral repercussions,'' Robert Redford wrote in an open letter.

A French supporter of the Indian cause, left, holds a flag of the American Indian Movement and an American exchange student, member of Arizona's Hopi tribe, Bo Lomahquahu, right, stand outside of the Druout's auction house in Paris, April 12, 2013.A French supporter of the Indian cause, left, holds a flag of the American Indian Movement and an American exchange student, member of Arizona's Hopi tribe, Bo Lomahquahu, right, stand outside of the Druout's auction house in Paris, April 12, 2013.
x
A French supporter of the Indian cause, left, holds a flag of the American Indian Movement and an American exchange student, member of Arizona's Hopi tribe, Bo Lomahquahu, right, stand outside of the Druout's auction house in Paris, April 12, 2013.
A French supporter of the Indian cause, left, holds a flag of the American Indian Movement and an American exchange student, member of Arizona's Hopi tribe, Bo Lomahquahu, right, stand outside of the Druout's auction house in Paris, April 12, 2013.
The U.S. ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, had urged the auctioneers to reconsider, saying in a statement late on Thursday: "A delay would allow the creators of these sacred objects the chance to determine their possible rights.''

Rivkin, who said that the auction house had yet to provide the Hopi Tribe with essential information about the objects, voiced his dismay in a Twitter message.

"I am saddened to learn that the sacred Hopi cultural objects are being put out to auction in Paris today," he wrote.

The tribe's legal advocates had sued the auctioneers at the Drouot-Richelieu auction house in central Paris on grounds that auctioning the masks would cause the Hopi "profound hurt and distress.'

Lawyer Quentin de Margerie bought mask 13, a design which mocks tourists, on behalf of Servan-Schreiber to give to the Hopi. He told Reuters few of the collectors understood the significance of the artifacts they were buying.

"It's a symbolic choice,'' de Margerie said. "What the Hopi have said about this auction is that people don't understand their culture.''

($1 = 0.7618 euros)

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”