Chinese relics sell for 15.7 mln euros each at YSL auction
26 minutes ago
PARIS (AFP) — Two looted Chinese bronzes sold for 15.7 million euros (20.3 million dollars) each to anonymous telephone bidders at the Yves Saint Laurent art sale on Wednesday, despite protests from Beijing.
China had demanded the return of the Qing dynasty fountainheads, of a rat and a rabbit, which were snatched from the imperial Summer Palace by British and French troops 150 years ago.
The sale price excluding auctioneer’s fees came to 14 million euros (17.9 million dollars) each.
Three anonymous telephone buyers bid for each of the two statues, but no bids were placed from within the auction room itself, under the glass dome of the Grand Palais exhibition hall on the banks of the River Seine.
A group of Chinese people left the building immediately after the sale, while Chinese lawyer Liu Yang, who has spearheaded efforts to have the pieces returned to Beijing, gathered journalists for an impromptu press conference.
Both pieces were auctioned along with Roman marbles and Egyptian antiquities on the third and final day of the vast sale of art, furniture and antiques collected collected by the late fashion icon and his partner Pierre Berge.
They were estimated at around 10 million euros each.
China’s foreign ministry said repeatedly it wanted the relics returned, and the Beijing-based Global Times accused France on Wednesday of “hurting China’s feelings,” in reference to the Saint Laurent sale.
But Paris said it had received no official protest from Beijing, and the auction went ahead as planned after a French court threw out a last-ditch legal attempt to have it blocked.
Berge, who decided to sell the collection following Saint Laurent’s death last year, had offered to return the pieces to China in return for a pledge to improve human rights.
But the Chinese foreign ministry dismissed his offer as “just ridiculous.”
Two dozen Chinese students rallied outside the Grand Palais Wednesday evening, handing out leaflets denouncing the “barbaric and bloody history” behind the looting of the relics.
Some 350 items in the 732-piece collection were up for auction on the last day of what has already smashed all world records for a private art sale, netting more than 300 million euros in its first two days.