Tele-phony Bids in the Saint Laurent Auction

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I’m still sick, but couldn’t hold off on this interesting bit of news. It appears that the $36 million bid for the pair of Chinese bronze animal heads sold last week in Christie’s big Saint Laurent auction in Paris was a ruse. The Associated Press is reporting that the anonymous telephone bidder was a Chinese auction house owner, Cai Mingchao. He says he did it simply to sabotage the sale of the heads, which were looted from Beijing’s Imperial Summer Palace by French and British troops in 1860, and has no intention of making payment.

I don’t know what Christie’s options are now under Chinese law. (The Beijing government, which had earlier made its own demands for the return of the heads, claims to have nothing to do with the false bids.) But if nothing else Mr. Cai has probably made it harder for Christie’s to sell those two heads privately, now that everybody is even more aware that they’re the object of conflicting claims.