New rules to stop ‘irreplaceable’ works of art to be sold abroad

Photo: Sotheby's
Rubens’ drawing of a young man. Photo: Sotheby’s

A new law will make it more difficult for privately owned art deemed ‘irreplaceable and vital’ to the nation to be sold abroad, junior culture minister Gunay Uslu has said in a briefing to MPs.

Uslu is acting on the advice of heritage protection commission Collectie Nederland which was set up in 2019 after members of the royal family sold several works of art, including a copy of a lost work by Leonardo Da Vinci. In the same year princess Christina put a drawing by Rubens up for auction without offering it to Dutch museums first. It was then bought by a US collector.

The new rules will require private owners who want to sell certain works or objects to  apply for an export licence, both for transactions in the EU and elsewhere.

An independent commission will then decide if the work is important enough to be offered to Dutch museums and collectors first. If none come forward, the work may be sold abroad.

‘A licence is a good way of determing beforehand if a work has a place in the heritage collection Collectie Nederland,’ Uslu said in the briefing.

Uslu said the number of works that will be affected by the new rules will be small. ‘It is not my intention to interfere in the art market,’ she said. ‘It will only be the occasional situation in which unique pieces are involved.’

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