The late designer Yves Saint Laurent’s collection of art and antiquities, sold by Christie’s Fine Art last week in Paris, brought in more than $484 million, setting a record for the most valuable private collection sold at auction.
Two bronze animal heads, a rabbit and a rat, looted from a summer palace outside Beijing in 1860, were purchase by Mr. Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge from a French gallery many years ago. Cai Mingchao, who runs an auction house in Fujian province in China, offered the winning bid of $36 million for the pair, but has refused to pay. Mr. Cai is an adviser to the National Treasures Fund. It is not known for certain if he acted on his initiative or on behalf of the Chinese government in sabotaging the sale of the figures.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Marrakesh, Morocco, Mr. Berge said, “It’s definitely a maneuver targeting the positions I have taken vis-a-vis human rights in China and Tibet”
Mr. Berge said that if Mr. Cai refuses to pay for the artworks, “I have no problem keeping them.”