PARIS (AP) – A Chinese-backed group is asking a Paris judge to suspend the sale of bronze relics looted in the 19th century and now part of a major auction of the estate of late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
The judge will rule Monday morning on the request – just hours before the auction at Christie’s in Paris begins, lawyer Romuald Sayag said Friday.
The last-minute legal effort threatens to further strain relations between China and France already marred by tensions over Tibet. It was also casting a shadow over what some are dubbing the auction of the century.
The auction will showcase an exceptional private collection of more than 700 works by such artists as Picasso assembled by Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge over decades. The collection has been exhibited for public viewing in New York and London, and the sale will run three days, finishing Wednesday.
The disputed items are two fountainheads, sculptures of a rat head and rabbit that disappeared from the former summer palace on the outskirts of Beijing in 1860, when French and British forces sacked it at the close of the second Opium War, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.
Sayag submitted the request to halt the sale of the bronzes on behalf of APACE, a group mandated by the Chinese government to protect Chinese art on the world market.