Today it's been revealed the successful bidder of the two animal bronze heads, a rat and a rabbit, won't pay up.
Cai Mingzhao said he made the more than $35 million total bid to protest the sale of the looted items.
''What I need to stress is that this money cannot be paid,'' Cai told a news conference in Beijing. ''At the time, I was thinking that any Chinese would do this if they could ... I only did what I was obliged to.''
Cai is an art collector, expert on relics and owner of Xiamen Harmony Art International Auction Company in Fujian Province.
He is also adviser to the Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Program, a nongovernmental group that seeks to retrieve looted items.
So if he or the group will not pay, what happens next?
According to Christie's, usually the buyer and the seller are encouraged to come up with some kind of settlement. But if nothing is resolved, the unsold items go back to the buyer, in this case Pierre Berge.
The Frenchman had taunted the Chinese earlier by saying that he would only give the heads back if it would "observe human rights and give liberty to the Tibetan people and welcome the Dalai Lama."
Doesn't sound like an amicable agreement will be reached.
This also brings up the issue of how Cai was able to bid in the first place, as the auction house asks all potential bidders to disclose bank and credit information as part of the registration process.
“You can’t just call up and say, ‘I want to buy a $20 million Picasso,’ ” Kate Malin, spokesperson for Christie's said. “You have to provide satisfactory credit and bank information.”
This unexpected twist to the story must be even more embarassing for the Chinese.
How can the country say they don't have the money to pay?
While Cai might have thought what he did was a patriotic act, it was just a publicity stunt that gives serious Chinese art collectors and buyers a bad name.