French judge permits auction of looted Chinese bronzes
Last Updated: Monday, February 23, 2009 | 2:04 PM ET
A French judge ruled Monday that the sale of two looted Chinese bronzes can move ahead as part of an auction of art items once belonging to Yves Saint Laurent, the late fashion icon.
On Friday, a Chinese-backed group had put forth a last-minute attempt to halt the sale of the two bronze fountain-heads as part of the three-day auction beginning Monday evening.
Though APACE, the Association to Protect Chinese Art in Europe, didn't want to stop the entire auction, it did call for suspension of the sale of the two disputed pieces — originally looted from a famed Chinese zodiac fountain at the former Imperial Summer Palace outside of Beijing in 1860.
China has called for the rat- and rabbit-head bronze sculptures to be returned.
In addition to allowing the sale to proceed, the French judge also ordered APACE to pay 1,000-euro fines (about $1,500 Cdn) to both Christie's and to Pierre Bergé — Saint Laurent's longtime partner and co-owner of the art collection.
The massive three-day auction, comprising more than 700 pieces of art, artifacts and furniture collected by the duo over half a century, is being held at the Grand Palais in Paris.
Christie's officials have estimated the bronze rat- and rabbit-heads could sell for $15 million Cdn each. Bergé has said proceeds from the auction will go to an AIDS research foundation he set up.
Over the years, China has called for the return of these fountain-heads whenever they turn up at auction.
The government purchased several of the bronze animal heads itself on a few occasions, while Chinese collectors have also done so and subsequently donated the artifacts to the Poly Art Museum in Beijing.With files from the Associated Press
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