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Maligned art dealer returns auctioned art objects to Hopi tribe

Oct. 7, 2013 at 11:41 AM

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Oct. 7 (UPI) -- A New York art dealer has turned criticism into praise after he returned Hopi art objects he bought at a Paris auction to the tribe in Arizona.

Monroe Warshaw had been criticized for exploiting Hopi culture after he paid $40,000 for two objects in April, The (Flagstaff) Arizona Daily Sun reported Sunday.

He gave the ceremonial objects, considered sacred by the Hopi, to the tribe last week, fulfilling a promise he made to the tribe during a visit in August.

When Warshaw bought the pieces, his original intent was to donate them to a museum, where they could be properly preserved and publicly viewed.

"The culture that created a work might not necessarily be the best one to preserve it," he said at the time.

After his bashing in the press, the art dealer made several trips to the Hopi reservation in Arizona. During one of those trips, Warshaw was invited to a sacred ceremony, and he changed his mind.

"(The artifacts) are living to them, and they're still using them in a living way," he said.

"You learn you don't own them," he added. "You can't own them. They are a part of these people."

Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, thanked Warshaw for his "kindness and understanding."

Kuwanwisiwma said the objects would be returned to a Hopi village where they would be in the custody of a Kachina priest.

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