|Eve Auction Photo|
The auction drew controversy because the masks are sacred to the Hopi Nation and the San Carlos Apache tribe, which asked that the items be withdrawn and returned to them.
The auction proceeded, despite attempts by the U.S. embassy to postpone it so that representatives from the tribes could inspect the artifacts and investigate whether they have a claim under a 1970 Unesco agreement, of which both France and the United States are signatories.
Annenberg vice president Gregory Annenberg Weingarten decided the foundation would purchase them and return them to the tribes.
“These are not trophies to have on one’s mantel,” Weingarten said in a statement. “They are truly sacred works for the Native Americans. They do not belong in auction houses or private collections.”