Chinese bidder won’t pay for looted bronzes

A mysterious bidder for two prized Chinese sculptures surfaced on Monday,saying it was his patriotic duty to refuse to pay the $40 million winning bid.....

Written by New York Times | Hong Kong | Published:March 3, 2009 12:46 am

A mysterious bidder for two prized Chinese sculptures surfaced on Monday,saying it was his patriotic duty to refuse to pay the $40 million winning bid.

A Chinese collector and auctioneer,Cai Mingchao,said at a news conference in Beijing he had made the anonymous winning bids for the 18th-century bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit. He described himself as a consultant with the Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Program,a non-governmental group that seeks to bring looted artifacts back to China.

The two heads were part of the sale last week in Paris of the private collection of Yves Saint Laurent and his personal and business partner,Pierre Bergé. The three-day auction,held in Paris,was the most expensive ever for a private collection,bringing some $484 million,according to Christie’s,the auction house.

“Any Chinese would have stood up at that moment,” Cai said of his bid,made by telephone through Christie’s. “I want to emphasise that the money won’t be paid.”

Christie’s declined on Monday to confirm that Cai,44,was the winning bidder. The general manager of Xiamen Harmony Art International Auction Company in Fujian Province of China,Cai paid a record $15 million in 2006 for a Ming Dynasty bronze Buddha statue.

The two bronze heads,which date to 1750,were part of a 12-animal water-clock fountain configured around the Chinese zodiac. It was located in the imperial gardens of the Summer Palace outside Beijing. In 1860,the palace was sacked by British and French forces. Around that time,the heads disappeared.

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