As we went live at 10.20 am GMT it became clear that China was going to place restrictions on Christie's operations. This has now been clarified by a further report on Bloomberg: "China Slaps Controls on Christie’s After Bronzes Sale (Update3)" (February 26, 2009; 7.35 EST).
China said it will tighten control on the activities of Christie’s International, hours after the auction house sold a pair of Qing Dynasty bronzes in Paris for 31.4 million euros ($40 million), ignoring calls to return them.Would it best for these bronze heads to be displayed together in China as their Italian creator originally intended? The French courts may feel that there is no legal case to answer, but the moral cause is compelling. We wait to see what the new owner(s) of the heads will do with them.
London-based Christie’s must give details of the ownership and provenance of any artifacts it wants to bring into or out of China, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage said today in a statement on its Web site. Antiques that are without papers won’t be allowed to enter or leave.
Tomorrow's (February 27, 2009) Times (London) has a leader on the story, and notes the link between the sack and the death of one of its reporters. It is unsympathetic: "A rich and proud China should have seized its chance to raise its arm and bid for the sculptures like anyone else."