Wednesday, February 25, 2009

China wants sculptures from Saint Laurent auction

They sold for an amazing amount of euros!!Two bronze fountainheads at the center of a spat with China — which said the sculptures were stolen and wanted them back — sold for euro28 million ($36 million).

BEIJING (AP)February 12,2009 — China has demanded the return of looted imperial bronzes scheduled to be sold in Paris as part of the estate auction of the late French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

The sculptures of a rat head and rabbit disappeared in 1860, when French and British forces sacked the former summer palace on the outskirts of Beijing at the close of the second Opium War, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regularly scheduled news conference Thursday that the pieces were "stolen and taken away by intruders," and "should be returned to China."

The issue threatens to further strain tensions with France that have led to protests and calls from the Chinese public to boycott French goods. China canceled a December summit with the European Union to protest talks between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese accuse of supporting Tibetan separatism.

The two bronzes — which are expected to sell for about 8 to 10 million euros ($10.4 to $13 million) each, according to Xinhua — are to be auctioned by Christie's Feb. 23-25 in Paris along with other pieces belonging to the estate of Saint Laurent, who died last year.

Xinhua said the bronzes are subject to a 1995 agreement which stipulated that "any cultural object looted or lost because of reasons of war should be returned without any limitation of time span."

"The aggressive war not only offended the Chinese people, but also this kind of action is a violation of international convention," Jiang said. She did not mention France by name, but said "the relevant country" should heed China's demands.

Xinhua said the two relics date back to the early Qing Dynasty, established by invading Manchu tribesmen in 1644. The Christie's guide says the "very rare and important" pieces were made for the Zodiac fountain of the summer Imperial Palace.

The rat head sculpture is about 12 inches (30 centimeters) tall and 16 inches (40 centimeters) long, while the rabbit is about 18 inches (45 centimeters) tall and 14 inches (35 centimeters) long.

Christie's said in a statement that while it "respects the cultural context around the sale of the fountainheads, we respectfully believe the auction will proceed."