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Sotheby’s Auction House denies PNG item was illegal

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, June 18, 2010) – A group of rare artefacts from around the Pacific and New Zealand has fetched almost US$3 million at auction in Paris.

Over 30 objects from Vanuatu, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand were put up for sale, with some items fetching more than $500,000.

It was the biggest ever auction of Oceanian art held in France.

Among the 31 artefacts were were Maori masks, ceremonial masks and a sacrificial knife from Kiribati.

A rare, one-metre high, statue of a woman from the Korewori River in the Middle Sepik region in PNG fetched almost US $700,000.

A slightly shorter male statue from the Sepik river was the most expensive lot of the day for $713,000.

[PIR editor’s note: Radio Australia reported separately that Sothebys Auction house dismissed allegations that a rare Biwat mask from Papua New Guinea, which it recently tried to sell, had been taken out of the pacific island nation illegally. The mask was part of a collection of rare artefacts from Oceania on auction in Paris. It failed to sell. A PNG newspaper had previously alleged the mask was initially acquired by Australian art buyer Wayne Heathcote, who has been accused of illegally taking artefacts out of the country.]

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