Tuesday 7 July 2015

China Repatriation: Collectors named, Seller Protected by Anonymity

French luxury tycoon François Pinault, who owns a string of luxury groups from Gucci to Saint Laurent, bought on the market somewhere some 7th century BC solid gold artefacts of Chinese origin., He decided to donate them
to Paris's Guimet museum of Asian art in 2000 as a favour to his friend Jacques Chirac – then French president and an Asian art lover. However, it transpired they were looted in 1992 from the tomb of a noble of the Zhou dynasty in Gansu province. According to China, they were part of a wave of thefts in the mid 1990s by farmers from sites in the western state of the Qins, who founded the first imperial dynasty. According to several art experts cited by Le Parisien, they were spirited out of China by a corrupt civil servant and sold on to the unsuspecting Mr Pinault. Chinese authorities filed a complaint via a French expert around 10 years ago to no avail, but continued to discreetly demand their restitution via diplomatic channels.

The return of the four gold heads of birds of prey, worth €1 million (£710,000), reportedly proved a diplomatic nightmare since gifts to French museums are in theory irrevocable.  In the end, the  French culture ministry "retroactively annulled" the gifts and returned them to the donor. Pinot has ongoing interests in China, and he offered them to the country, personally handing them over to the Chinese embassy in Paris in April, without asking for any compensation.

Another collector, Christian Deydier, who had bought 28 other artefacts from the same seller, also handed them back on May 15 to coincide with a visit to Beijing by the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius.  The name of the seller is not given.

Henry Samuel, 'France discreetly returns looted gold antiquities to China ' Telegraph 6th Jul 2015.


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