Fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent died in June 2008. Now his companion, Pierre Berge, has put up for auction a substantial number of works from the famed designer’s art collection. The money raised by the sale will go to fund HIV-AIDs research. Included among the pieces at auction are two bronze animal heads, a rabbit and a rat, believed to have been plundered from a fountian at Yuanmingyuan, the Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing, by French or British soldiers in October 1860.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu demanded the return of the objects. But Christie’s auction house maintains that there is clear legal title to “each and every item” in the Berge Collection. A spokesman for Christie’s said the company “supports repatriation of cultural relics to their home country and aids in the process where possible by sourcing and bringing works of art to the auction platform to give buyers a chance to bid for them…. We strictly adhere to any and all local and international laws with respect to cultural property and national patrimony of art.”
China Urges Return of Saint Laurent Sale Bronzes [Bloomberg.com; February 12, 2009]
Row looms over Qing treasures sale [ShanghaiDaily.com; January 25, 2009]
Chinese fury at Yves Saint-Laurent art sale [Telegraph.co.uk; November 4, 2008]