French judge authorises sale of Chinese antiques

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An art association’s plea that the two Chinese bronzes at an auction of Yves Saint Laurent artworks were looted from the imperial palace 150 years ago has been rejected by the court.

PARIS – A French judge authorised Monday the sale of two Chinese bronzes at an auction of Yves Saint Laurent artworks, rejecting a plea for them to be returned to China.

The 18th century Qing dynasty bronzes - part of a collection looted 150 years ago by British and French troops from the imperial Summer Palace - are to go under the hammer on Wednesday.

Saint Laurent's partner Pierre Berge, who decided to sell their joint art collection following the designer's death in 2007, said the judge took the right decision and reiterated an offer to trade the relics against rights.

"I'm absolutely ready to give the two heads to China," he said. "The only thing I ask is for China to give human rights, liberty to Tibet and to welcome the Dalai Lama."

A French-based Chinese art association, Apace, had asked the judge to serve an injunction preventing the sale, arguing the bronzes remain stolen property, but the court decided it had no jurisdiction to rule in the case.

The association has wanted the court to force the French state to intervene and negotiate the return of the items with Beijing authorities.

The prosecutor described it as a "cavalier" plea and "abuse of procedure" by "an association that only represents itself" and called on the court to fine Apace "because a minimum of respect for justice is called for."

A lawyer for the Association to Protect Chinese Art in Europe group told the court its aim was to "alert public opinion on the fate of numerous Chinese works stolen in the past and sold through trafficking."

Christie's, which is organising the three-day EUR 300 million auction of the Saint Laurent/Berge collection, has consistently argued there are no legal grounds to bar the sale of the two rare pieces.

The three-day sale began Monday.

AFP / Expatica

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