An auction of masks originating from Native American Hopi tribe in Arizona has begun in Paris, after a legal challenge to stop the sale failed.
Lawyers for the Hopi tribe had asked for the auction to be cancelled on the grounds that the 70 masks must have been stolen from the tribe.
It considers them sacred and blessed with divine spirits.
Auctioneers, however, say the masks had been bought and sold in the past and were legally acquired.
“The sale is going ahead,” lawyer Pierre Servan-Schreiber, who represents the Hopi tribe, told news agency AFP after a Paris court rejected the bid.
Robert Redford has been supporting the Hopi and describes himself as their “close friend”.
Before the court ruling, Robert Redford wrote that the masks “belong to the Hopi and the Hopi alone”.
“To auction these would be, in my opinion, a sacrilege – a criminal gesture that contains grave moral repercussions,” the actor said.
“I would hope that these sacred items can be returned to the Hopi tribe where they belong. They are not for auction.”
The legal proceedings were brought by the organization Survival International, which defends the rights of tribal peoples.
The US ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, has also said he is “very concerned” about the sale.
However, auctioneer Gilles Neret-Minet of auction house Neret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou had warned that a ruling to stop the sale could potentially force French museums to empty out their collections.
“If we lose this case, there will be no more sales of objects of indigenous art in France,” he said before the court ruling.