Tuesday 09 August 2022

Commission plans overhaul of export licenses for ‘irreplaceable and vital’ art

Photo: Sotheby’s

‘Irreplaceable and vital’ artworks of national significance should be better protected from being sold abroad by private owners, a commission set up by the culture council has said.

The commission, set up by the culture council, made the recommendation in a report to junior culture minister Gunay Uslu.

It was set up in response to a public outcry against the sale of a sale of a Rubens drawing by Prinses Christina, youngest sister of former queen Beatrix, in 2019.

Despite an appeal to the royal family and the government to intervene, the drawing was bought by an American private equity billionaire for $8.2 million (€7.5 million).

Dutch museums called the sale ‘scandalous’ but had no legal grounds to stop it as it was not included on the register of protected art, for which a government export license is needed.

Modern art

The commission said the register should be replaced by a wider export licensing system which will encompass ‘a more dynamic concept’, better reflecting the ‘richness and complexity’ of Dutch cultural heritage.

As well as old masters or antique religious art, more recent pieces valued at €750,000 or more would need an export licence under the commission’s proposals.

If the government does not grant an export licence, it will automatically be obliged to buy the work. In order to finance the process the commission proposed a €50 mn fund to be topped by €25 mn annually.

The commission also proposed fiscal perks to encourage owners to donate art.

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