TIME Culture

Navajos Buy Back Artifacts at Disputed Auction

France Artifacts Auction
Native American Navajo Nation Vice president, Rex Lee Jim, poses for the media outside of the Drouot's auction house prior to the contested auction of Native American Navajo tribe masks in Paris, Dec. 15, 2014. Francois Mori—AP

The objects for sale included religious masks, dozens of Hopi kachina dolls and several striking Pueblo masks embellished with horse hair, bone and feathers

(PARIS)— When diplomacy and a plea to return sacred ceremonial masks to an American Indian tribe in the United States failed, officials from the Navajo Nation traveled to the Paris auction house selling the items and started bidding for them.

They fended off a French art collector Monday, winning seven masks for more than $9,000. Navajo Vice President Rex Lee Jim said the Navajo delegation was unable to determine the exact provenance of the artifacts but said they had to face the reality of the auction and buy them.

“They are sacred masks … and unfortunately they end up here. Whether that is legal or illegal … we don’t know,” said Jim, a medicine man who offered prayers to the masks that embody Navajo deities. “What we do know is that they are for sale.”

The Navajo Nation took a different approach than its Hopi neighbor in northeastern Arizona, which has seen losses of ceremonial items at auctions in France that were deemed legal to private collectors.

The objects for sale at the Drouot auction house included religious masks, colored in pigment, that are believed to be used in Navajo wintertime healing ceremonies. It also included dozens of Hopi kachina dolls and several striking Pueblo masks embellished with horse hair, bone and feathers, thought to be from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The U.S. Embassy in Paris asked Drouot to suspend the sale to allow Navajo and Hopi representatives to determine if they were stolen from the tribes. But Drouot refused, arguing that the auction was in accordance with the law — and that a French tribunal had previously ruled that a similar sale was legal.

Sales from the auction totaled 929,000 euros ($1.12 million).

The Hopi saw the sale as sacrilege and did not travel to Paris for the auction, said Pierre Schreiber, a lawyer representing the tribe. Only a member of the tribe has the right to possess the items that represent the spirits of their ancestors, tribal officials have argued.

“Hopis were opposed to buying back their artifacts as they did not want to engage in the auction,” Servan-Schreiber said.

Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie said he was appalled by the latest sale.

The Navajo Nation delegation was authorized to spend up to $20,000 to retrieve the masks that typically are disassembled after a nine-day ceremony and returned to the earth, said Deswood Tome, a spokesman for the tribe.

Jim said the objects were not art but “living and breathing beings” that should not be traded commercially. He was set to return to the United States on Tuesday, with the masks to be shipped later to the tribe.

French art collector Armand Hui bid for several masks at the auction but told The Associated Press hebacked down when he saw that tribal members had come in person to buy them.

“I wanted to respect that,” he said.

Tome said it would incumbent upon the leaders of the Navajo and Hopi tribes to discuss how to approach any future sales of sacred items in foreign countries.

“If there are religious items that are sacred in the future, the leadership will have to determine what steps they will take,” said Tome. “Buying these masks here today is a precedent that we’ve set.”

The Associated Press is not transmitting images of the objects because both the Navajo and Hopi have strict rules against recording and photographing ceremonies featuring the items that otherwise are kept entirely out of public view. The Navajo Nation initially included a photo of the masks in a news release but later replaced the photo with one of Jim, saying it was a mistake. The Hopi tribe considers it sacrilegious for any of the images of the objects to appear.

TIME movies

The Piano That Was Used in Casablanca Has Been Sold for $3.4 Million

Movie MemorabiIia Auction
This Nov. 21, 2014 photo shows the piano on which Sam plays "As Time Goes By," a bamboo and cane cafe chair the front doors of Rick's Cafe Americain, and a Moroccan-style painted metal floor lamp from "Casablanca," part of the "There's No Place Like Hollywood" movie memorabilia auction, at Bonhams auction house, in New York. Richard Drew—AP

"Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake."

The piano on which Ilsa famously asked Sam to play “As Time Goes By” in Casablanca was sold at a New York auction on Monday for $3.4 million.

A miniature instrument, and golden yellow in color, the piano is hard to recognize as an iconic prop from the 1942 blockbuster, which featured Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa, Humphrey Bogart as Rick and prominent African-American jazz drummer and band leader Dooley Wilson as barroom pianist Sam. (Remarkably, since posterity remembers him as a pianist, Wilson did not actually play the piano, but had the keyboard tinkling for Casablanca overdubbed.)

Despite the piano’s diminutive size — it has 30 fewer keys than normal — it didn’t fail to upstage the other movie memorabilia on sale at Bonhams. The Cowardly Lion costume from The Wizard of Oz came closest, fetching $3.077 million.

Catherine Williamson, the director of entertainment memorabilia at Bonhams, said that the Casablanca piano is such a significant piece because Humphrey Bogart hides the letters of transit, his only possible escape from Morocco, in the instrument.

“Fifteen minutes into the movie, he tucks them in there,” she told the New York Times. “They’re under there while Sam plays; they’re there for all of the activity that happens in the cafe. The piano is there. It represents the way out for them. That’s what made it so important.”

The letters of transit were sold separately for $118,750.

TIME On Our Radar

Sebastian Junger’s Fight to Save Journalists’ Lives

Ever since the death of his friend and colleague Tim Hetherington, who — along with Getty’s Chris Hondros — was killed in a mortar attack in Libya in April 2011, Sebastian Junger has been advocating for increased medical training for freelance journalists.

“Most journalists who have salaried jobs get medical training, but freelancers are completely independent and often find themselves in very exposed places,” Junger tells TIME. “They fall between the cracks.” A filmmaker, best-selling author and the founder of a nonprofit, Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC), Junger was inspired to get involved in the fight to save freelancers’ lives after talking with a combat medical officer about Hetherington’s death. The CMO told him that Hetherington could probably have survived his injuries if his colleagues on the scene had had first aid training. Junger resolved to do something to try and help others avoid his friend’s fate.

Junger created RISC in 2012 and has trained close to 200 freelance journalists in the sort of simple and essential medical skills — tying a tourniquet, carrying an injured person to safety, etc. — that, in the field, can mean the difference between life and death.

This year, RISC is holding a benefit auction of photographic prints to raise money to help pay for the training it provides. (Each training session costs $24,000 for 24 New York-based students; overseas sessions cost $36,000.)

This year, 46 photographers have donated prints for the auction, with bids accepted from Nov. 19 until Dec. 3, when the charity will hold a live event at the Aperture gallery in New York City.

Junger hopes to raise $200,000 to sustain the organization and train more than 70 freelance journalists in 2015. “We’re sort of putting it all together each year, and we know we won’t make all of it at the auction,” he says. “But the auction is one way to raise a bit more.”

For more information about RISC, visit the RISC website. The online auction is hosted by Paddle8, with the live event taking place on Dec. 3. Tickets are available now.


Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent


TIME Pop Culture

Lost Love Letters Belonging to Marilyn Monroe to be Sold at Auction

Joe DiMaggio Marilyn Monroe
In this June 2, 1955 file photo, actress Marilyn Monroe, right, dressed in a glamorous evening gown, arrives with Joe DiMaggio at the theater. Associated Press

Monroe’s “Lost Archives” is a collection of 300 items including letters, photographs, paintings and clothes

Correction appended Nov. 12, 1:19 p.m. ET

A collection of love letters and other memorabilia belonging to Marilyn Monroe will go up for auction next month at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Monroe’s “Lost Archives” is a collection of 300 items including letters from her second husband, baseball star Joe Dimaggio, that were sent just before their divorce, the Associated Press reports.

“I love you and want to be with you,” Dimaggio wrote in one letter. “There is nothing I would like better than to restore your confidence in me.”

Also found in the trove are correspondences from her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, and from friends including Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Jane Russell, along with various paintings, photographs and clothes.

The curators are expecting a huge turnout for the auction, which will run Dec. 5-6.

“We anticipate a lot of fans will be here. They’ll fly in from all over the world,” said auction owner Darren Julien, who estimates some pieces could go for more than $1 million.

The collection will be put on display for the public four days before bidding begins.

This article originally misstated the profession of Joe Dimaggio. He was a baseball player.

TIME White House

13 of JFK’s Wedding Negatives Have Been Auctioned for $37,000

Wedding Of John F. Kennedy And Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy
John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy outside St. Mary's Church in Newport, R.I., after their wedding on Sept. 12, 1953 Charles F. McCormick—Boston Globe/Getty Images

The images, depicting the newlyweds and the wedding party, were reportedly taken by photographer Frank Ataman

Thirteen original negatives of photographs taken at John F. Kennedy’s wedding were auctioned off on Wednesday for a sum of $37,073.

Boston-based RR Auction said the negatives, which have probably never been published, were sold to a Las Vegas doctor who chose to remain anonymous.

The images show Kennedy and his new bride, Jacqueline Bouvier, cutting their wedding cake and leaving the church, and a couple of others show the entire wedding party posing outside, the Associated Press reported.

The wedding took place on Sept. 12, 1953, in Newport, R.I., and was attended by nearly 2,000 people. Kennedy was still in his first term as a U.S. Senator, and wouldn’t go on to become President until more than seven years later.

According to RR Auction, the images were taken by freelance photographer Frank Ataman, although the negatives were found in another photographer’s darkroom.

Other items related to the Kennedys sold on Wednesday included a holiday card signed by the couple just days before the President’s November 1963 assassination. It fetched $19,500.

[AP]

TIME Video Games

Is This Video Game Collection Worth $164,000?

Forget all that mad money, where the heck do you stash over 5,700 video games?

How do you value over 5,700 video games, more than 50 game systems, complete Nintendo and Sega game sets, and the ever-indefinite extension in such taglines “more”?

I have no idea. I collect rare books and I still haven’t the faintest. But someone has to try, and this Wyoming-based eBay seller’s come up with a round number for his apparently vast and immaculately groomed lot: $164,000.

$164,000 sounds like a figure arrived at carefully. Not $150,000, not $160,000, but $164,000. That has to be the result of an additive calculation, an item-by-item tabulation, not some ballpark figure plucked from the ether in multiples of ten- or fifty-thousand bucks.

More than 4,000 of the games are Nintendo-related, says seller reel.big.fish, with the majority from the 1980s and 1990s (he calls this period “the golden age” of gaming, which, just forget all the problems with such nostalgic labels, identifies the demographic the eBay sale’s targeting). The collection includes “multiple complete sets from Nintendo and Sega,” and “arguably” every retail game Nintendo put out from 1985 to 2000 (in the video below, the seller notes he’s only missing Stadium Events, though he has a reproduction cart). Other systems represented in the software mix include Atari, PlayStation, Sega, TurboGrafx and Xbox.

Want every Nintendo 64 console color variant? Custom hand-built and painted shelves (yes, shelves)? Complete-in-box Mario and Zelda sets? Eighty-one variant carts sorted by the number of screws (I had no idea this was a thing)? All 14 Virtual Boy games plus a 15th “bonus import”? Rare development carts? Dust covers for every single NES game? (I don’t, but maybe you do, and the sale currently has over 3,700 watchers, over 950 views per hour and over 50 inquiries so far.)

If you want to see the complete list, the seller’s put up a Google Doc spreadsheet with everything here (warning: it’s godawful slow to scroll, at least on a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro). The seller says there’s no breaking this thing up, though I’d wager a gazillion people are going to ask for the privilege anyway. And note that $164,000 is just the asking price: he’s taking offers.

And if you want a tour of this fellow’s video game room–over 11 minutes of wall-to-wall game rubbernecking!–your wish is granted.

TIME Music

Willie Nelson’s Braids From 1983 Have Sold for $37,000

Musician Willie Nelson arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles
Musician Willie Nelson arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 26, 2014 Danny Moloshok—Reuters

The braids were among the possessions of fellow country musician Waylon Jennings, who died in 2002

Willie Nelson’s hair was sold for $37,000 on Sunday in an Arizona auction, Reuters reported. The iconic country singer’s signature braids, cut in the 1980s when his red hair hadn’t turned gray yet, were among the possessions of the late Waylon Jennings.

Over 2,000 of Jennings’ possessions were auctioned off on Sunday, according to the New York Times.

Jennings, another well-known country musician, was reportedly given the braids at a 1983 party thrown by Johnny Cash and his wife to celebrate Jennings’ sobriety.

Rock icon Buddy Holly’s Ariel Cyclone motorcycle, given to Jennings by members of Holly’s band after his death in 1959, was also sold at the auction for $450,000.

But the fiery red braids belonging to Nelson, whose duets with Jennings included “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and “Good Hearted Woman,” were the most attention-grabbing item in the auction. It has not yet been revealed who bought the braids.

Jennings died of complications from diabetes in 2002, aged 64.

TIME Music

Willie Nelson’s Hair and Buddy Holly’s Motorcycle Being Auctioned Off

56th GRAMMY Awards - Arrivals
Willie Nelson arrivals at the 56th GRAMMY Awards on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Steve Granitz--WireImage

Some 2,000 items owned by the late-country singer are being auctioned off in October

For the devoted collectors out there, now’s your chance to buy some truly offbeat music memorabilia — including Willie Nelson’s hair.

Auction house Guernsey’s is planning to auction off some 2,000 objects owned by the late country singer Waylon Jennings. The “Good Hearted Woman” singer, who died in 2002, owned a number of unconventional items that were given to him throughout his long career in music. Among the items going up for auction are two of Nelson’s braids which the New York Times reports were somewhat bizarrely given to Jennings at a 1983 party in honor of his sobriety. (Even more bizarrely, the party was hosted by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.)

Also up for sale will be a pair of Hank Williams’ old cowboy boots and a motorcycle once owned by Buddy Holly. The motorcycle would have been a particularly personal item for Jennings, who was a good friend of Holly’s. Jennings was even meant to get on a 1959 plane that crashed, killing Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, though he gave up his seat for Richardson. According to the Times, two former members of the band the Crickets — who had been touring with Holly when he first bought the bike — tracked it down in 1979 and presented it to Jennings as a birthday gift.

The auction is set for Oct. 5.

[New York Times]

TIME Television

Here’s Your Chance to Win an Overnight Stay at Downton Abbey

Christie's is auctioning off an overnight stay at Highclere Castle

Have you ever found yourself watching Downton Abbey and been so engrossed that you wished you could actually live in the world of the British period show? Well, here’s your chance, at least for a short amount of time.

Auction house Christie’s is offering an overnight stay at Highclere Castle—the English estate where some of Downton’s pivotal scenes have been filmed—which will go to the highest bidder. The overnight stay includes the use of three rooms on the castle’s first floor, including the Arundel bedroom, which has been used as Lady Edith’s room and the Mercia bedroom, which has been used as Lady Cora’s room. The winner will also have the chance to share a three-course dinner with the owners of Highclere Castle, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.

The auction runs online until Aug. 14, but unfortunately for the commoners, the overnight stay is likely to go to someone with Crawley-type money. Bids will start at £10,000 (about $16,800) and Christie’s estimates the overnight stay could go for as much as £15,000 (about $25,000).

Everyone else will have to make due with the show’s fifth season, which is set to air on PBS in January, 2015.

 

TIME Pop Culture

Near-Perfect Copy of Action Comics #1 Will be Sold on eBay

Action Comics #1 comic book of 1938 is pictured on February 23, 2010 in New York which had sold for USD 1 million, making it the first ever million dollar comic book.
Action Comics #1 comic book of 1938 is pictured on February 23, 2010 in New York which had sold for USD 1 million, making it the first ever million dollar comic book. Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images

The copy being sold received a 9.0 out of 10 rating by the most trusted comic book rating company

In a little less than a month, anyone looking to get his or her hands on a copy of the comic book that introduced the world to Superman will have an opportunity to vie for the legendary relic.

Action Comics #1 will be auctioned on eBay from August 14 to 24 and may run you a fair amount more than the 10 cents that the original cost when it was released in 1938. In fact, the last issue of the Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster-penned comic to be sold went for no less than $2.16 million.

According to Cnet, the issue of the 1938 comic being sold next month was given a 9-out-of-10 rating from the Certified Guaranty Company, a well-known comic ratings company, which is the highest grade a copy of Action Comics #1 has ever received. The issue that sold for over $2 million in 2011 also received a 9.0 rating.

The issue’s owner, Darren Adams, got the copy from a dealer, but the original was kept in pristine condition in part because it was stored for a while in a cedar chest in West Virginia.

“I felt this book deserves to have as much publicity as possible because of what it is,” Adams said in a video on eBay. “It is the cream of the crop and it doesn’t get any better than this.”

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Christopher Reeve played Superman in the iconic 1978 film. He became a quadriplegic in the 1990s after being thrown from a horse and died in 2004.

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