A pair of very elaborately designed Eskimo masks was sold for $4.6 million at the Winter Antiques Show in New York recently. The masks were made between 1890 and 1905 by the Yup’ik Eskimos in the Kuskokwim Region. But the masks are called Donati Masks because they once belonged to Surrealist painter Enrico Donati who died in 2008. It is believed that the design of these masks was inspired by ideas seen in dreams by holy men of the tribe.
The masks were part of a private collection and hence not in public view for over fifty years. Donald Ellis Gallery, Ontario, offered them for sale and confirmed that it was the highest price ever for Native American Art. The gallery has various other similar masks that showcase a wide range of expressions and symbolism used by these Eskimos. The Gallery specializes in Eskimo, Northwest Coast and Eastern Woodlands cultures.
Donald Ellis has been buying and selling Native American objects when he was in his twenties. His gallery has done very well this year grossing $8 million from sale of 19 objects. Nine pieces sold from the catalogue has also fetched another $1.3 million for them. The Donati masks will be on display as part of an exhibit called “The Color of My Dreams: Surrealism and Revolution in Art” at the Vancouver Art Gallery between May 28 and Sept. 25.