China’s cultural heritage agency has strongly condemned the auction of two bronze pieces it says were looted from the Summer Palace near Beijing some 150 years ago. Christie’s sold the bronzes, part of the late Yves Saint Laurent’s estate, for 31 million euros.

It’s bad enough that museums engage in this kind of cultural pilfering — at least those objects are offered for public viewing. The idea of some Bruce Wayne snatching up a priceless relic to fill a sconce in his bat cave is truly appalling.

One can only hope the high bidder bought the pieces in order to give them back to China.

Related: The Truthdig book review of Sharon Waxman’s “Loot” examines this issue in greater detail.


The cultural heritage agency said it had “pressed for the withdrawal of these Summer Palace relics”.

“But Christie’s took its own course and insisted on auctioning the relics looted from the Summer Palace in breach of the spirit of international pacts and the consensus on the return of such artefacts to their original countries,” it said.

“The State Administration of Cultural Heritage does not recognise the illegal owners of the looted relics and will continue to utilise all … necessary channels to recover all relics stolen and illegally exported throughout history,” it said.

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