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Beijing vexed over Yves Saint-Laurent auction

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2009-01-17

Two animal sculptures stolen from the Beijing summer palace in 1860 appear on the list of an eagerly awaited art auction from the late Yves Saint-Laurent. The "sale of the century", due for February 2009, has angered the Chinese authorities.

Chinese cultural officials are voicing anger over the planned sale of two national treasures in a high-profile auction of art amassed by late fashion king Yves Saint Laurent, state media said Saturday.

 

The relics, animal sculptures that decorated the Old Summer Palace in Beijing for hundreds of years, are expected to sell for up to 12 million dollars each in the Paris auction, the China Daily newspaper reported.

 

The rabbit and mouse head sculptures were stolen when French and British forces destroyed the famous complex of palaces and gardens in 1860, and Chinese cultural officials' repeated requests for their return have been rejected.

 

"We have already taken action to try to bring the two pieces back," Niu Xianfeng, deputy director of China's Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Fund, told the China Daily.

 

He said the fund had contacted agents for the two relics in 2003 and 2004, but were told then they would have to pay 10 million dollars each for them.

 

"We think the offered prices were unreasonable and unacceptable," Niu said.

 

Chinese officials are determined not to participate in the sale, organised by Christie's and set for February, even though they desperately want the sculptures back.

 

"We always maintain the same stance on the issue of cultural relics lost overseas," said Song Xinchao, museum director at the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, according to the China Daily.

 

"We will not purchase things that belong to us."

 

The issue has piqued the interest of netizens here, with 90 percent of respondents to an online survey on popular portal Sina.com saying China should demand their return.

 

February's auction will see the sale of hundreds of pieces of art and cultural relics gathered over four decades by Saint Laurent, who died in June, and his companion, Pierre Berge.

 

Art-market insiders have described it as "the sale of the century" that will likely fetch hundreds of millions of dollars.

Date created : 2008-10-25