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As protesters jeer, Hopi masks sell in Paris

By Korea Herald

Published : April 14, 2013 - 19:36

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PARIS (AP) ― In 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. 
A picture taken on April 5 in Paris shows the “Wuyak-ku-ita” sacred mask of Arizona’s Hopi Native American tribe. ( AFP-Yonhap News) A picture taken on April 5 in Paris shows the “Wuyak-ku-ita” sacred mask of Arizona’s Hopi Native American tribe. ( AFP-Yonhap News)

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.

But the auctioneer insisted any move to block the sale could have broad repercussions for the art market in general and potentially force French museums to empty their collections of indigenous works.

The Katsinam, or “friends,’’ masks made up nearly all of the 70 lots that went on display at the auction house, offering a rare public glimpse of such works in Europe.