YSL partner offers China art for human rights

Fri Feb 20, 2009 3:19pm EST
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By Lucien Libert

PARIS (Reuters) - The former partner of Yves Saint Laurent, who is selling the art collection he built up with the late fashion designer, said he would hand over two sculptures claimed by China -- but only if Beijing agreed to free Tibet.

Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent's former business partner and companion, is organizing the biggest private auction of art seen in Paris for years, selling the huge collection built up by the two in a three-day auction next week.

Among the works of art are two Chinese bronze sculptures of a rabbit and a rat head, taken during the Opium Wars of the 19th century that the Beijing government said earlier this month belonged to China and should not be auctioned.

Berge said he was not concerned by a claim due to be heard by Paris judges on Monday seeking to have the bronzes returned.

"I acquired them and I am completely protected by the law, so what the Chinese are saying is a bit ridiculous," he told Reuters Television on Friday. "But I am prepared to offer this bronze head to the Chinese straight away."

"All they have to do is to declare they are going to apply human rights, give the Tibetans back their freedom and agree to accept the Dalai Lama on their territory," he said.

"If they do that, I would be very happy to go myself and bring these two Chinese heads to put them in the Summer Palace in Beijing."

"It's obviously blackmail but I accept that," he said.   Continued...

<p>Pierre Berge attends a news conference at the Christie's auction house in Paris September 26, 2008. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>