The winning bidder of a pair of Chinese bronzes auctioned off in Paris, France, emerged Monday as a collection adviser from China’s National Treasures Fund, and he has refused to pay, Xinhua news agency reported.
Cai Mingchao placed the $39.63 million (31.49 million euro) phone bid on Wednesday for the two sculptured bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit dating from China’s Qing Dynasty. The relics were part of the late Yves Saint Laurent’s private collection of arts and antiquities. “What I want to stress is that this money cannot be paid,” Cai said at the news conference, according to the news agency. “Every Chinese would have liked to do like this at that moment, and I’m honored to have the chance to make the bid,” Xinhua quoted Cai as saying. “I did this on behalf of all Chinese people,” he said.
The Chinese government had protested their sale, saying they were stolen during the 19th century and belong to Beijing. The two 18th-century pieces disappeared when French and British Allied forces pillaged Beijing’s Old Summer Palace during the second Opium War in 1860. But Christie’s auction house went ahead with the sale, whipping up nationalistic passion among Chinese in and outside China.