Hopi fail to block auction of sacred masks in Paris

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Hopi fail to block auction of sacred masks in Paris

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The sale has gone ahead in Paris of a collection of Hopi masks that the native American tribe considered sacred, and had demanded be returned.

A court ruling cleared the sale after the Hopi attempted to sue the auction house.

“The court decided to let the sale proceed because those masks, as sacred as they may be for the Hopis, are not bodies, human bodies, alive or dead, body parts, and the court found that’s the only thing that could have been protected, with which I disagree,” said the lawyer representing the Hopi, Pierre Servan-Schreiber.

The Hopi had support from the US ambassador to France and show business personalities like Robert Redford. The tribe itself made no bids on the masks.

“Those objects have been sacred since about 20 years ago. Before that the Hopi used to sell those masks. We already saw that in New York as part of the collection of Andy Warhol. And at that time the auction didn’t lead to such a fuss,” said auctioneer Gilles Neret-Minet.

The collection, comprising dozens of masks, was assembled by an amateur who lived in America for some 30 years before putting it up for sale.