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YSL’s Opium War ‘Loot’ Up for Auction

China welcome to bid.


In 1860, during the Second Opium War, Chinese officials assert, French and British troops looted Beijing’s Old Summer Palace, taking bronze sculptures of a mouse and a rabbit. Now they’ve turned up in the late Yves Saint Laurent’s art collection, to be auctioned by Christie’s in February. They’ll be auctioned in Paris, but Christie’s displayed highlights from the collection— valued between $290 million and $440 million—at its Rockefeller Center headquarters last week. Estimated between $10 million and $13 million each, the sculptures were labeled as coming from the Old Summer Palace’s Zodiac Clock fountain. Christie’s plans to go through with the auction, as Saint Laurent had legal title to the works. “Christie’s supports repatriation of cultural relics,” the house said in a statement, “and aids in the process where possible by sourcing and bringing works of art to the auction platform to give buyers a chance to bid for them.”

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