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Auction Raises Funds For Great Wall, Venice

May 7, 1989

BEIJING (AP) _ European nobility in diamonds bought Chinese watercolors, and a Chinese man in sandals took home a Roy Lichtenstein print Saturday at a charity auction to raise funds for the Great Wall and Venice.

The second annual ″Safeguard Venice and the Great Wall″ art auction drew bids topping $540,000 for more than 80 paintings and pieces of art.

″It was a good surprise,″ said Joel-Marie Millon, auctioneer for the Paris-based auction house Drouot. He said proceeds from the auction were at least 30 percent higher than expected.

The auction of modern art was the highlight of the ″Return of Marco Polo,″ a four-day luxury tour of Beijing that includes a caviar lunch on the Great Wall, banquets in the Forbidden City and waltzes by the Beijing Central Opera.

Each guest paid $6,800, not including air fare, for the visit.

Daniel Vial, a Parisian public relations agent who has organized the tour the past two years, said about 100 people, mostly European jetsetters, rich businessmen and auctioneers, joined this year’s trip.

He said they had expected about 300, but many canceled because of recent pro-democracy student demonstrations that have convulsed the Chinese capital.

Organizers said they did not yet know how much money would be left after expenses, but Vial said it would not be as much as last year. In 1988, about $350,000 was donated to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to restore 2,624 feet of the crumbling Great Wall and provide funds for the Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice.

The highest price at Saturday’s auction was for an acrylic on galvanized steel by American artist Robert Rauschenberg, which went for $73,000 to New York decorator Tony Ingrao. Ingrao cast his bid by phone from New York, and other direct lines were open to bidders from Tokyo, Paris and Switzerland.

An ink painting by famed Chinese artist Li Keran went for $39,000, and an ink abstract by the daughter of China’s senior leader Deng Xiaoping, Deng Lin, sold for $12,000.

The few Chinese in the audience at the Museum of the Chinese Revolution watched in silence - the average per capita income of a Chinese worker is little more than $270 a year. But one Chinese man dressed in sandals and a polo shirt, Song Wei, won a hotly contested bid to buy a Roy Lichtenstein color woodcut for $6,200.

″He’s a famous painter and no one in China has a work of his,″ Song said.

Song, who said he is director of the ″Great Wall Museum of Art,″ said he is Communist China’s first collector of foreign art. He declined to reveal his source of income, but said he made his money in a ″normal″ way.

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