China warns Christie’s of `serious effects’ after auction

February 26th, 2009 - 12:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Feb 26 (Xinhua) China has condemned the auction in Paris of two bronze sculptures that were taken from its Summer Palace in 1860 and said it would have “serious effects on Christie’s development in China”.
China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) issued a statement here Thursday condemning the sale of the two sculptures.

The authorities said China did not acknowledge what it called the illegal possession of the two sculptures and would “continue to seek the return of the sculptures by all means in accord with related international conventions and Chinese laws”.

According to the statement, officials repeatedly sought to halt the sale. However, it said, Christie’s proceeded with the auction, violating international conventions and the “common understanding” that such artefacts should be returned to their country of origin.

It said the auction “damaged Chinese citizens’ cultural rights and feelings and will have serious effects on Christie’s development in China”.

The two controversial Chinese relics were auctioned Wednesday night for 14 million euros ($17.92 million) each. They were bought by anonymous telephone bidders in Christie’s sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the Grand Palace of Paris.

According to Christie’s, they received eight phone calls for enquiries before the sale.

After the auction was launched, the competition was only conducted between telephone bidders.

The bronze sculptures, a rat’s head and a rabbit’s head, were looted by the invading Anglo-French expedition army in the 19th century. The invaders burned down the royal garden of Yuanmingyuan in Beijing.

The Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris ruled against stopping the sale of the two bronzes Monday, and the Association for the protection of Chinese Art in Europe (APACE) was ordered to pay compensation to the defendant.

The two bronze sculptures were part of the art collection of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. So far, five of the 12 bronze animal fountainheads have been returned to China, while the whereabouts of five others are unknown.

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