Friday, 27 June 2014

More Hopi Masks on Sale in Paris, just up the Road from UNESCO

UNESCO Whirling dervishes
The US-based Holocaust Art Restitution Project is miffed because it could not persuade the French government (more precisely the “Conseil des Ventes”, an administrative body in charge of regulating and supervising auction sales on the French market) to halt an auction sale of Hopi and Navaho masks at Paris' Hôtel Drouot on June 27th 2014. They've just issued a press release calling this "shameful" and "tragic".
"The Conseil has refused to consider the provenance information for these objects in its decision, when everyone agrees in the United States that title for these sacred masks could have never vested with subsequent possessors. Furthermore, adding insult to injury, the Conseil held that the Hopi tribe, in fact ANY Indian tribe, has no legal existence or standing to pursue any cultural claim in France".
But this is quite true. The entity which should be the petitioner in such a case is the state, in this case the US government, not any art foundation or ethnic group. Like the Ka Nefer Nefer case, this failed because of a procedural error on the side of the US, who don't on current evidence seem to be all that good at this sort of thing. They don't even have export licensing for cultural property.  Do HARP have any access to decent cultural property lawyers? 

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