Despite her skills and connections though, Croes is up against some stiff competition. Well, her and virtually ever other dealer in the masterpiece business, it seems: the PLA reportedly has access to funds totalling $711 billion for these efforts, and it's not just Chinese works they have their eyes on:
"The People's Liberation Army is very rich, very powerful and all-knowing," Croes said. "You must keep looking over your shoulder. This is an exceedingly jealous business, and I find pieces that others can't find, I know people they don't know."
"The Chinese art market is a $1 billion-a-year trade and it can be dangerous and frightening," she said.
She said her market was also long on cloak-and-dagger. "I've been accused of being everything from a smuggler to an agent for the Chinese secret police," Croes said. "The mystery of my reputation is only painful when it's a lie."
Colin Sheaf, 53, deputy chairman of Bonhams auction house in London and the company's Chinese art specialist, spoke of Croes's reputation in the trade....
"Gisele is remarkable at finding treasure," Sheaf said. "She's part of the world's most elite group of dealers, handling a quality of Chinese merchandise that auction houses can only dream about."
Facing an acute art shortage, the Chinese government plans to construct 1,000 new museums by 2015, including 32 in Beijing in time for the 2008 Olympics and 100 in Shanghai before the opening of the 2010 World's Fair, according to reports in China's government-controlled media.And here I was worried about the effect of Alice Walton's art buying.
The People's Liberation Army, or PLA, has so far targeted only Chinese art.
Analysts say the army's strategy over the next five years is to dip further into China's foreign-currency reserves - about $711 billion, the second biggest after Japan, and growing - to buy and barrack celebrated Western masterpieces, often at prices above their auction-market value.