Le-Min Lim on Bloomberg offers a long profile of the Chinese antiques dealer who has sacrificed his professional standing for his country’s honor.
After his March 2 news conference, Cai had the art world speculating on his motives and whether he had state backing. That night, he flew back to his office in Xiamen, a city of 2.5 million people just across the sea from Taiwan, sat on his couch and wept.
A March 4 Xinhua commentary compared Cai’s default with not paying ransom to kidnappers. “Paying would encourage more such stealing, and make the robbers happy,” the commentary said. [ . . . ]
Hong Kong antiques dealer Yumi Kunizuka, whose family consigned a collection in London in 1989, said this case is not so much a lesson in law and art-auction protocol than manners.
“The whole matter could have been handled with more grace and wisdom by Christie’s, Berge and Cai,” said Kunizuka. Berge could have done more for Saint Laurent’s memory by not flaunting the bronzes, Christie’s shouldn’t have agreed to auction the items and Cai was unprofessional in what he did, Kunizuka said.
(Amid all the speculation about his motives, no one has asked if he bought the bronzes in good faith but was pressured by the Chinese government to back out. Though he insists there was no collusion.)