Interview with José – A general impression
José was curious about what happened an wondered how sometimes with wrong intentions people often do work together, each in his/her on way. She thought of the Fondation Joe Dassin, the young Hopi man from Third Mesa, the American woman who was ‘escorted’ out of the room, the French journalist, the Survival people demonstration in front of the entrance distributing flyers. She had the feeling that many people came because of the commotion of the last days and found it strange that I was asked whether I was for or against the sale upon entering the building for the auction. Since I replied I was an observer we were let in. Watching what was happening around us she came to the conclusion that buying something would be unethical, on the same level as buying from a ‘drunken Hopi’. When two pieces were flagged as falling under CITES, she wondered how they got to Paris in the first place.
She questioned the attitude of the people from the auction House Neret-Minet: Although we were allowed to take as many pictures as we wanted of the Katsinam, no photographs were allowed during the actual auction nor protest. When someone uttered just one word beside placing a bit, that person was immediately ‘escorted’ out of the room or their material was confiscated for a short time. In a few instances she felt the aggression of the auction house personnel had been provoked by an activist but was genuinely offended by the attitude of the ‘bouncers’: as if this were in a bar and drunks misbehaving were 'escorted' out.
She said: “From a purely European point of view there is nothing wrong with the auction because of the ruling of the judge ‘not wanting to create a precedent which would make the sale of religious art and objects impossible’. In one breath she questioned the role of the two ‘specialists’ deciding age, authenticity, whether rare or exceptional. If they know so much, she objected, why do they insist on calling them ‘Masks’ instead of ‘Friends’ like the Hopi do.
She was absolutely shocked by their comment on the inside of certain Friends: “Beautiful patina of certain ‘masks’’ because they have been used in ceremonial and sacred dances.” She felt that part of the dancers with the Friends was being sold too. Yet, she conceded, that if one didn’t know about the significance of all this for Hopi, that then the protest might be seen as ridiculous and naive and people asking themselves : what do I have to do with it?
P.S.: Another person learned from a Director of an Ethnological Museum in France that they would want the pieces and then could make a copy for the tribes 'if the tribes didn't take care of them properly'. Their discussion had been in general about ‘African Art’ and ‘Native American Art’. That shocked me!