The sideshow attraction that the Chinese government seems to be inciting around the sale of the two heads from the Beijing Summer Palace zodiac clock has turned into farce. Now the press has taken up an odd theme: that the works have now become unsaleable. Here’s the Independent:
In theory, Christie’s could now organise another auction and order Mr Cai to refund any shortfall in the new sale price. In practice, that may be very difficult to arrange. A long legal, and diplomatic, wrangle looms.
The Chinese government denied that it had played any part in Mr Cai’s act of sabotage. Niu Xianfeng, the assistant director of the cultural recovery programme, told a press conference in Beijing that it was he and Mr Cai who had devised a plan to block the sale.
“This is an extraordinary method taken in an extraordinary situation, which successfully stopped the auction,” Mr Niu said. He described Mr Cai as a “Chinese man whom everyone should admire”.
Mr. Cai has not prevented the statues from being sold into private hands–the Chinese government’s stated goal–by any stretch of the imagination. The auction market is only a fraction of the private transactions that fuel the art market. Instead, the Chinese government has simply validate the worth of the statues with a public price. It is entirely plausbile–possibly likely–that a private sale will now be both easier because of the notoriety and at a high or higher price. If Beijing’s goal was to see the statues returned–as the other five had been–this strategy would guarantee a private benefactor would have to pay a great deal more for the privelege.
Chinese Bidder Won’t Pay for Looted China Bronzes (The Independent)