French Hopi mask auction goes ahead despite controversy

Amid protests from Native Americans, a controversial auction of Hopi masks and artefacts took place at Eve auction house in France on Sunday (December 9).

The masks represent the spirits of Hopi ancestors and the tribe finds their sale highly offensive

The masks and other items are considered sacred by members of the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes, with the traditional belief that they represent their ancestors' spirits. It is claimed that they were taken from the tribe illegally in the early 20th century.

The controversy is continued from an earlier auction of Hopi artefacts in France this year, which raised a total of $1.2m. However, a few of the masks sold in the auction were donated back to the tribe by sympathetic bidders.

The Hopis' French lawyer, Pierre Servan-Schreiber, has also bought one of the masks for $17,829 in the present sale, and intends to return it to them.

Despite the objections, the sale remains legal in France, with auctioneers arguing that banning such items from being sold may have ramifications for the tribal and indigenous art market and museums may be asked to return their collections.

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