Thursday, February 26th, 2009
The precious Qing dynasty fountainheads, looted from the imperial Summer Palace by British and French troops 150 years ago, were snapped up one after the other by anonymous telephone bidders.
China had demanded the statues’ return, but the French government said it received no official request from Beijing, and the sale went ahead after a Paris court threw out a Chinese group’s last-ditch attempt to have it stopped.
Not only did the court throw out the last-ditch attempt, but it fined The Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe — the Chinese government-sponsored organization which filed the suit — $2000, to be split between Christie’s and Pierre Bergé’s company.
China is seriously put. out. Even Jackie Chan is in high dudgeon, and you know he will fuck a French dude up.
Official wrath was nothing compared with the anger of Chan, who told reporters in Hong Kong: “They remain looted items, no matter whom they were sold to. It was looting yesterday. It is still looting today.”
Chan, who collects and has in several cases donated antiquities, said he was to start filming a movie next year about the search for, and return of, treasures from the palace. “But now we have lost two more pieces. This has made me really angry,” he said, adding that the sale was “shameful”.
China is going to make Christie’s pay, though. They’ve ordered officials to scrutinize every import and export Christie’s tries to make in China from now on, so basically they can kiss their Chinese business goodbye for the time being.
The total haul of the auction was an astonishing $484.5 million, far exceeding estimates. Absurd records were set all over the place, for artists like Matisse, Mondrian, Klee and Brancusi, and for 20th c. furniture. One Art Deco Eileen Gray chair went for $28 million.
To be fair, it is a pretty awesome chair.