Thursday, May 07, 2009

More on...


After some fairly easy digging I came across an article on one Mrs. Gisele Croes, a Belgian woman with an incredibly interesting story.  

Currently, Mrs. Croes works as a sort of relic hunter, tracking down old Chinese relics to sell to the Chinese government for lofty sums. Officially, she works as an "art appraiser and dealer" but in fact her job is much more complex than this title suggests. 

The PLA, the world's largest standing army, is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bring back Chinese art treasures. Additionally, the PLA strategy over the next five years is to dip further into China'sforeign-currency reserves (which are dwindling post- financial crisis, despite their recent purchase of US bonds) to buy celebrated Western masterpieces, often at prices above their auction-market value. Now, with the opening of the Beijing Olympics and the coming Shanghai Expo, the PLA is on a fervent mission to acquire more and more relics and subsequently open more and more museums.

Mrs. Croes plays an interesting role in this acquisition. Her job is to locate such works and deliver and she is often successful. (This success has something to do with her ties with the Mao era Chinese government. In 1965, she worked as one of the few Communist foreigners in Chinese government doing propaganda art). In the industry Croes is known as "The Empress" because she is able to find so many rare pieces. 

The PLA's mad rush to buy such pieces has actually caused a problem for many auction houses. The more the PLA buys these pieces at a above market value, the more the value of the pieces gets artificially inflated. There are many auction houses that are now scrambling to isolate the works from the PLA before they have a chance to buy them.

Also, doing a bit of research also turned up another interesting story which involves speculation as to what money the PLA is using to buy the relics. James Mulvenon, deputy director of the Defense Group at the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis says "Poly's use of arms sales to fund the operation is probable". The PLA's commercial arm in North America, PTK International, between 1987 and 1994 sold $200 million in light semi-automatic weapons to gun dealers in the U.S. The question is how much of this money is going towards the acquisition of Chinese relics?



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