Native American Objects Ethics Statement
At Revere Auctions, we are committed to building a more ethical, consultation-focused auction market for Native American art and artifacts. We acknowledge that many Native American items currently on the secondary market were stolen or unethically purchased. In addition to this, many objects that may be perceived as artworks are in fact items of immense religious and cultural significance that were never intended to be sold. We state our commitment to working with Native American tribal representatives to handle religious and culturally significant items in the most ethical manner possible, including efforts towards the return of objects. In addition, we work hard to educate our consignors and buyers about works of art and works of cultural significance. Historically, auction houses have been resistant to the push toward respect and accountability regarding repatriation that is becoming the standard in museums, universities, and other institutions. However, we believe that not only do auction houses need to be brought up to that standard, they in fact can play a unique and important role in maintaining the integrity of the market and the value of art objects.
Auctions are a unique market that provide a great deal of visibility to Native American art. This allows items that would otherwise have remained hidden in private sales to come to the attention of the tribes to whom they are important, as well as academics, researchers, and other stakeholders. We seek to leverage this visibility for good, using the market to create an opportunity for stakeholders to begin conversations about the return of objects with the auction house as an important intermediary. We feel that we can take an active role in making this market better for everyone, not despite but because of the fact that we continue to sell Native American art and antiques. Doing so with transparency and a focus on consultation can help protect the investments of collectors as well as the cultural patrimony of Native American nations by creating an ethical market which will fit in with a changing political landscape. This will allow the market to grow, drawing socially conscious collectors, while continuing to respect and protect the cultural heritage of Native Americans.
Throughout the auction process, our foremost goal is to facilitate communication between tribal government officials and the consignor, while always protecting the consignor’s identity. We encourage this dialogue as an important step toward developing a market that respects the rights of collectors while aiding Native American nations in their efforts to recover significant objects. In keeping with this focus on dialogue, we are dedicated to continuing to have conversations with all stakeholders, and adapting our policy as we learn and grow. In a market that, through its history, has been defined by auction houses disregarding the concerns of Native American peoples, we strive to be leaders in forming a precedent for more respectful practices. We provide a new model for ethical participation in the Native American art market, one that will allow it to continue and grow for further generations.
Step one: We make information about objects of Native American origin available to appropriate authorities, such as Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, so they can review the items and flag any that are extremely culturally significant, and therefore require dialogue and communication that other objects do not.
Step two: Items that are flagged will be subject to a seven business day waiting period before the auction winner can pay and pick up the item. This time allows the tribal nation to appeal to donors and/or the consignor. For these appeals, we solicit written explanations of the significance of the objects, which are then used to provide the information necessary for consignors, buyers, and outside donors to consider donating the objects.
Step three: Should the tribal nation wish, they can buy the object for the hammer price without participating in the auction. This ensures that repatriation efforts do not inflate the market on items that tribal authorities feel are inappropriate for sale. If a donor is found, they can buy the object for the hammer price and donate it to the appropriate tribal nation at this time.
Step four: After a tribal nation has worked with us for an auction, if they ask us not to sell objects from their nation, we will honor that wish to the best of our ability.