The Annenberg Foundation has revealed that it was an anonymous bidder that paid $530,000 for 24 Native American artifacts that were being sold at a controversial auction in Paris earlier this week.
The Los Angeles-based charitable organization headed by Wallis Annenberg said that it will return the artifacts to the Hopi Nation and to the San Carlos Apache tribe.
Monday’s auction in Paris drew international attention after U.S. officials attempted to postpone the sale of the 24 items, which included masks, dolls and other items.
A court in France had dismissed an effort by an attorney who represented the tribes to withdraw the items from the sale that was organized by Eve, a French auction house for antiques and art.
Pierre Servan-Schreiber, an attorney at Skadden in Paris, argued that the objects constituted sacred items and that they should be returned to their respective tribes.
The auction on Monday featured more than 170 Native American objects, though not all of them were being contested in court.
Officials at the Annenberg Foundation said that director and vice president Gregory Annenberg Weingarten made the decision to step in and purchase the items. (Weingarten is the son of Wallis Annenberg.)
“These are not trophies to have on one’s mantel,” Weingarten said in a statement this week. “They are truly sacred works for the Native Americans. They do not belong in auction houses or private collections.”
The Anneberg Foundation said that 21 of the objects it purchased will be returned to the Hopi Nation and three to the San Carlos Apache tribe.
Monday’s controversial sale took place several months after another French auction house sold 70 Native American artifacts despite international criticism. Neret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou sold the objects at an April auction for a total of €930,000 ($675,479).