palace by British and French troops during the second Opium
War in 1860, and auctioned by Christie’s last week
Media outlets swirled this week with the story of a Chinese art dealer’s phony $40-million bid for two Chinese zodiac status, included in Christie’s recent auction of the late Yves Saint Laurent’s art collection.
The dealer, Cai Mingchao, placed an anonymous phone bid for the bronze rabbit and head sculptures and later refused to pay–as an act of patriotism. The pieces were originally part of a 12-statue set–all abducted by British and French troops in 1860–and millions of dollars have already been spent by Chinese philanthropists to bring five of them back to the country.
These actions were not sanctioned by the Chinese government, according to both Cai and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.
In the aftermath of this scandal, the statues’ owner, Pierre Berge, has decided to hold on to the statues.
From the LA Times:
Saint Laurent’s former business partner and life companion, Pierre Berge, was quoted in French newspapers Tuesday as saying he would keep the heads and put them on either side of a Picasso that also did not sell at last week’s auction.
“The heads were with me and they will return and we will continue to live together,” said Berge, a longtime critic of the Chinese government’s human rights policy. “If this was a maneuver so that the Chinese government could buy them back at a cheaper price, it won’t work.”
We’re obviously no fans of the Chinese government’s human rights policy. But China’s people are more than their government, and punishing the people of China–by withholding their country’s looted history–seems like a most unfortunate instance of wire-crossing to us.
Filed under: Auctions, China, Christie's, Crossed Wires, Government, History, Human Rights, Loot, Opium Wars, Pierre Berge, Protests, Punishment, The Chinese Government, Yves Saint Laurent, Zodiac Statues
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