The Sale of the Century Shatters Records Sparks Controversy


The “Sale of the Century,” (as Christie’s auction of the Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Bergé Collection has been dubbed) began last Monday, February 23, in Paris, where the Grand Palais brimmed with over 1200 collectors from around the world. The multi-session sale drew $484,426,456 – well over the initial $280-430 million estimate. Works by Brancusi, de Chirico, Duchamp, Klee, Mondrian and Matisse shattered previous sale records. An even bigger coup, however, belonged to the twentieth-century decorative arts sale: With a presale estimate of 2-3 million Euros, Eileen Gray´s Dragons armchair fetched a jaw-dropping 20.19 million Euros, becoming the highest price ever paid for a work of 20th century decorative art at auction, and a record for the artist. In other auction news, a Chinese collector and consultant with the Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Program, Cai Mingchao, phoned in winning bids for two eighteenth-century bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit, both of which were allegedly looted from the Chinese government. His clandestine act added a bit of controversy to the sales, as he doesn’t have the means, nor the intention to pay for either of them. How Cai managed to register as a bidder with Christie’s remains unclear. For more coverage of the event, please visit The Magazine Antiques.