Thursday, February 26, 2009

China Chastises Christie's Over Garden Sculpture Sale

Bloomberg reports that China has limited Christie's ability to import and export undocumented artifacts as punishment for its controversial sale of Italian-designed garden sculptures from the Qing Summer Palace. See:

According to the report,

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.

I wonder if France, Britain and/or the United States (countries where Christie's maintains significant operations) will retaliate for this discriminatory act made in response to a sale that was entirely legal under French law.

I suppose the United States could in theory at least suspend the recently imposed import restrictions on Chinese cultural artifacts. After all, at a minimum, the Chinese action directed solely at Christie's just underscores the general lack of restrictions for Chinese collector's interested in antiquities. Contrast this to our own State Department's decision to impose strict documentation requirements on Americans wishing to import Chinese artifacts dating from the Tang period and before. Now might be a time to rethink those restrictions, though, as a realist, I doubt that will happen.

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