Taíno people want to stop Christie's sale of artifacts

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Taíno people want to stop Christie's sale of artifacts
Ra Ruiz León, who is Taíno, an Indigenous people of the Caribbean whose descendants can now be found throughout the Antillean islands, standing outside Christie’s in New York on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, protesting a planned sale of artifacts in Paris this week. Stephanie Bailey via The New York Times.

by Laura Zornosa

NEW YORK, NY.- On the sidewalk outside of Christie’s auction house in Manhattan, Ra Ruiz León, who is Taíno, played the mayohuacán wooden slit drum. She had arrived at Christie’s with a sign reading “Respect Indigenous people! Return our artifacts.”

León was one of a small group of people who showed up at a “Bring Back Our Artifacts” ceremony outside of Christie’s at noon Monday, followed by a meetup outside of the French Consulate General.

The two events followed an online petition asking Christie’s to stop the sale of sacred artifacts of the Taíno, an Indigenous people of the Caribbean whose descendants can now be found throughout the Antillean islands. Stephanie Sherman, a member of the Arayeke Yukayek Taíno tribe, created the petition a week ago in response to Christie’s “Pre-Columbian Art & Taíno Masterworks” auction scheduled for Wednesday in Paris, and it had surpassed 30,000 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.

“No matter how much these things go for, there’s no price that has the value for what these items are worth,” Sherman said in a phone interview. “We have so little to ourselves, to our Taíno communities that we long to honor and have these objects back.”

The “Pre-Columbian Art & Taíno Masterworks” auction includes 38 works from the private Fiore Arts Collection of Taíno art, as well as Mayan and Mezcala pieces. On its website, Christie’s highlights some works made of “manatee bone, shell and terra-cotta, layered with symbolically-charged iconography,” and states that “the works speak to the creativity of the Taíno.”

“As custodians of the art that passes through our doors, we recognize we have a duty to carefully research the art and objects we handle and sell,” Christie’s Paris said in a statement. “We devote considerable resources to investigating the provenance of works we offer for sale, and have specific procedures, including the requirement that our sellers provide evidence of ownership.

“In the case of the upcoming sale, these checks have been carried out and we have no reason to believe that the property is from an illicit source or that its sale would be contrary to French law.”

Sherman said she first learned of the auction through a TikTok post that includes a video from a Christie’s website feature on the items, which appears to have since been removed.

In the video, André Delpuech, the director of the Musee de l’Homme, introduces the upcoming auction items. “Unfortunately, for the Taíno, they were completely destroyed by the Spanish conquest,” Delpuech says in the video. “And we can imagine that around 1530 or 1540, no Taíno were living in the Caribbean.”

Stephanie Bailey, the chief, or cacike, of the Arayeke Yukayek tribe, was particularly struck by the implication that the Taíno people were essentially extinct.

“They’re still perpetuating this idea of extinction or annihilation to drive sales, essentially,” Bailey said in a phone interview. “That’s really what we feel that it’s doing, driving sales, because we become more of a valuable asset if we no longer exist.”

In fact, last year, a scientific study in the journal Nature found that, on average, about 14% of people’s ancestry in Puerto Rico could be traced back to the Taíno. That figure was about 4% in Cuba and 6% in the Dominican Republic.

“If they sell the items, of course it’s devastating,” Bailey said. “It’s a thousand percent devastating. However, dialogue can create a space where, in the future, maybe it doesn’t happen that way.”

Even if they can’t ultimately stop the auction, the Arayeke Yukayek people hope for dialogue with Christie’s to provide perspective. In the future, Bailey said, perhaps Christie’s will reach out to the Taíno people first.

After the group started researching Christie’s, Bailey said, they realized that Mexico, too, had expressed concerns regarding two auctions in Paris, including this one, that included Mexican pre-Hispanic items.

On Oct. 22, the Mexican Embassy in France sent a letter of protest to Christie’s Paris and informed France’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs that it believed such sales encourage transnational crime and create favorable conditions for looting, according to an embassy news release.

At the ceremony Monday, Sanakori Luis Ramos, the behike, or medicine man, for the Arayeke Yukayek people, invoked the ancestors using a zemi, a sculptural object housing the spirit.

“That’s two things that need to be addressed: one is stopping the sale, and two,” Ramos said, “we exist.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

November 10, 2021

Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection and Center Hosts Virtual Cotsen Textile Traces Global Roundtable

Six million visited wrapped Arc de Triomphe

France hands back 26 treasures looted from Benin

National Portrait Gallery announces winner of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2021

Exhibition features fifteen paintings dating from 1959 through 1961 by Donald Judd

Western art prices soar sky high at Hindman's Western Art, Including Contemporary Native American Art Auction

Taíno people want to stop Christie's sale of artifacts

Explore Sydney Contemporary launches 11 November with 1,700+ artworks

White Star Line button worn by one of two barbers on board the Titanic headlines auction

Dean Stockwell, child actor turned 'Quantum Leap' star, dies at 85

Contemporary Art at Swann Nov 16: David Hockney, Kerry James Marshall, Jenny Holzer & more

Christie's Finest and Rarest Wines and Spirits to be led by the legendary Springbank 1919, 50 Year Old

Remarkable archive of artworks by a Derbyshire miner up for auction

Landmark work by Maria Fernanda Cardoso to rise 11 storeys high over Sydney Streets

Hake's sets world auction record with sale of Capt. America shield: $259,540

Fridman Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Ambrose Rhapsody Murray

Creative Time appoints Head of Storytelling Kathryn McKinney

A handwritten page from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' sells for world record $423,000

Pottery from important New England estate, American Indian art lead Ethnographic Art Auction

Audain Prize for Visual Art awards $100,000 to Haida carver James Hart

The Morgan announces Jesse R. Erickson as the Astor Curator of Printed Books and Bindings

Michael Anastassiades' debut solo-exhibition with Friedman Benda opens in New York

Chamber Music Society's leaders on balancing old and new

Woody Auction announces highlights included in Dec. 4 antique auction

Brick and Mortar Casinos Close. Can online casinos replace it?

Mistakes Artists Make When Selling Their Art Online

8 Gifts for Mothers

Tarot Reading: What Are These Cards? (+ Free Reading)

How To Transform Photos Into Pop Art

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful