Yves Saint Laurent Owned Statues The Chinese Consider Cultural Treasures; Christie’s Says The Papers Are In Order.
These two heads come from the Zodiac Clock in Beijing’s Imperial Summer Palace. They were removed by French and British troops who looted the place in 1860. Now that the Chinese have a little extra money, they’ve been buying the various heads back. The Telegraph picks up the story:
A number before now have come up at auction in the west and Hong Kong. All five of those have been bought by Chinese benefactors or a government art fund and returned to the country in the last eight years, but as their historical importance to China has become clear, the price has risen.
Saint-Laurent’s pair – the rabbit and the rat – have had estimates of pounds 6-8 million each put on their value by Christie’s, which has put them up for auction with much of the rest of the late designer’s collection in Paris in February. [ . . . ]
Chinese state media have reported that the figures were offered to the government in a private sale for $20 million – more than £12 million – five years ago, but the price was turned down as too much.
(More after the jump.)
Why? The word got out that the Chinese government wanted to re-assemble the clock. The Chinese got tired of being marks:
“We think the offered prices were unreasonable and unacceptable,” said Niu Xianfeng, deputy director of China’s Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Fund.
Other officials indicated that the fund was no longer prepared to spend large amounts of government money on relics that in its view rightfully belonged to China.
Now the Chinese are playing PR hardball. They’ve put it out that they were offered the heads five years ago for $20 million and turned the price down as too aggressive. Now they’re trying to put the hex on Christie’s by calling the statues war plunder. Christie’s can’t take that lying down. The Telegraph quotes the auction house here:
“All of the objects in the sale, including the Fountainheads, have a clear and extensive history of ownership. This means that for each and every item in this collection there is a clear legal title, an issue that is always of greatest importance to Christie’s. We strictly adhere to any and all local and international laws with respect to cultural property and national patrimony of art.”
Chinese Fury at Yves Saint-Laurent (Telegraph)