FRENCH auction houses have toughened their stance on Chinese bidders after a series of well-publicised problems with non-payment.
Toulouse auction houses led the way when offering two important Qianlong works of art for sale on March 26.
A 79ft (24m) scroll of a military procession dating from 1739, was expected to bring €3m-4m at Marc Labarbe, sufficient for Pierre Ansas, the freelance Asian art specialist who catalogued the sale, to ask potential buyers for a returnable deposit of €200,000 to allow them to bid at the sale.
The one European and seven Asian bidders who registered to bid also contracted to pay one third of the premium-inclusive price within a week and the balance of the bill within three months if they were successful.
The same rules applied to bidders for an Imperial white jade seal offered on the same day by fellow Toulouse auctioneers Chassaing-Marambat.
M. Ansas conceded the move – which auction body Symev confirmed is not common practice in France – was unpopular, but he was not prepared to risk falling victim to a non-paying bidder of the type that has blighted the sale of the £43m vase at Bainbridge's of West Ruislip.
He told the Bloomberg news wire: "I need to be responsible. I have a business to run. I would rather have sold the scroll for €8m-10m to someone with money in the bank, rather than for a crazy price to someone I don't know."
He added that the agent representing the Liaoning-based real estate billionaire Wang Jianlin – recently identified by dealers as the successful bidder at Bainbridge's in November – had been refused permission to register for the sale.
In an effort to resolve the payment issues surrounding their record-breaking vase, auctioneer Peter Bainbridge and owner retired solicitor Anthony Johnson from the Isle of Wight, were reported to have flown to China to meet the buyer of the most expensive Chinese work of art ever sold.
A report on the sale of the scroll for €17.8m (£16.18m) and the seal for €10m (£9.09m) appears in the International Events section of this week's ATG printed newspaper. To subscribe, click here.
By Roland Arkell