Auction Sabotage?

On February 26th, the following story was all over the news. As news of the startling total profits from the Bergé/YSL auction spread, a parallel story began to garner the attentio of the media:
China Fails to Halt Sale of Looted Relics at Paris Auction
Published: February 26, 2009

PARIS — Two bronze heads originally looted from China were sold Wednesday night for a total of nearly $35.9 million without commissions, after fierce but futile protests from China and a failed legal challenge to the auction.

In Beijing, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage denounced the sale Thursday, saying in a statement: “This has hurt the cultural rights and interests of the Chinese people and the national sentiment and will have a serious effect on Christie’s development in China.”

The bronze heads sold at the [YVES SAINT LAURENT] auction, a rat and a rabbit, are part of a 12-animal fountain, based on the Chinese zodiac, that was constructed around 1750 from the design of Jesuit priests in the Qing dynasty. The fountain was built for the imperial gardens of the Old Summer Palace during the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century.

Now fast-forward to March 2nd, where the real twist emerges!
(please note: image at left is from BBC news)

Twist in Christie's Auction of Relics Has China Winking
Published: March 2, 2009

HONG KONG — A Chinese man’s assertion that he sabotaged the auction of two Qing dynasty bronzes at Christie’s in Paris last week handed Beijing a wry public-relations coup on Monday after it battled for months to block the sale.

The man, Cai Mingchao, a collector and auctioneer, said at a news conference in Beijing that he had submitted the two winning $18 million bids for the bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit on Wednesday, but that he had no intention of paying for them. He described himself as a consultant for a nongovernmental group that seeks to bring looted artifacts back to China, and said he had acted out of patriotic duty.

(...) Mr. Bergé suggested Monday that the Chinese government was behind the apparent collapse of the deal. Speaking on French radio, he said he was “not very surprised” by the latest twist, Agence France-Presse reported.

If well-known art buyers such as Mr.Cai are getting involved with the Chinese
government in a plot to corrupt the auction, what kind of antics can we look
forward to in the future? Has China overlooked that legally speaking, Bergé
has every right to sell his possessions at auction? Should Bergé have returned
them to China when they requested them prior to the auction?


dandy gum said...

yes he should have. bon débarras

magdalyn said...

this is so crazy/interesting.. an MA thesis in itself