Hopi masks sold for $1.2M in Paris auction after legal challenge failed

This picture taken on April 5 shows the 'Wakaskatsina' mask, one of 70 masks that went under the hammer at an auction in Paris on April 12.

Dozens of Native American tribal masks went under the hammer in Paris on Friday after a French court rejected pleas by the Hopi tribe, actor Robert Redford and the US government to withdraw them from the auction.

The masks, which the Associated Press described as “surreal faces made from wood, leather, horse hair and feathers and painted in vivid pigments,” fetched EUR931,000 ($1.2 million) at the auction in Paris.

The most expensive mask, known as they “Mother Crow,” sold for EUR160,000, which media reports said was more than three-times the pre-sale estimate.

Lawyers for the Hopi tribe had asked a court to cancel the auction on the grounds that the masks were not art because they represented dead ancestors’ spirits, and must have been stolen from the tribe.

But the court claimed it could “only intervene to protect human remains or living beings,” Reuters reported.

Protesters repeatedly interrupted the auction of the masks, which act as a channel of communication between the living and the dead, but to no avail.

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