AP Photo/Francois Mori
AP Photo/Francois Mori

Parisian Auction House Plans to Sell More Hopi Katsinam Wednesday


Yet another auction of sacred Native American cultural items is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, June 10, at the Drouot auction house in Paris.

"Vente Tableaux anciens et modernes, bijoux, objets d'art et mobilier, Art Précolombien, d'Asie, Inde et Afrique" begins at 2:30 PM local Paris time, or 8:30 AM on the east coast of the US. This auction comes just a week and a half after another of its type. That June 1 sale was protested by Arizona's Congressional delegation, the Hopi Tribe's government, and an alliance of museum directors. All three groups issued statements calling for a stop to the sale.

PDF LINK: Statement by museum directors to French President Francois Hollande
PDF LINK:  Fact sheet from Hopi Tribe
PDF LINK: Letter to the U.S. Attorney General and Director of the FBI from Arizona's Congressional leaders

The Hopi are currently working with the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, or HARP, which is led by the New York-based lawyer Pierre Ciric. In response to two 2014 auctions, the Hopi and HARP took their case to the French Conseil des Ventes Volontaires (CVV), a regulatory body that oversees the French auction industry. The CVV's ruling, as summed up by the Hopi Tribe's fact sheet, is remarkable:

The CVV denied the Hopi Tribe’s ability to bring a cultural claim, holding that the Hopi Tribe was unable to demonstrate that it had legal existence and therefore the capacity to take legal action under French law. 

"Here it’s an actual government entity that states policy from the French government that says U.S. tribes do not exist legally speaking, so they cannot appear before us," Ciric said, according to a Fronteras news report. Ciric holds that the decision is "discriminatory" and "disconcerting."

On its Facebook page, HARP recently posted a link to a June 3 story about a recent intervention by France's Culture Minister in a Sotheby's auction. Three items connected to the  Orleans family, out of power since 1848, were pulled from the sale after Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin declared them "national treasures." 

"France's new Culture Minister, Fleur Pellerin, shows her teeth by invoking cultural patrimony on a set of objects being offered for sale at Sotheby's by heirs to the Count of Orleans, the remnants of France's moribund royal blood line," HARP stated on its Facebook page. "Should a king or queen ever ascend to the throne of France, it would be the Orleans who would prevail. It would appear that sacred artifacts belonging to indigenous tribes the world over don't weigh much against royal artifacts."

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