Turner's Blue Rigi is export-stopped

  • 22 September 2006

The Art Fund is urging the government to do all it can to help keep JMW Turner's recently export-stopped masterpiece, The Blue Rigi, in the UK.

The Blue Rigi was sold to an overseas buyer in June for £5.8 million, breaking the record for a British work on paper. When the painting’s anonymous buyer sought permission to take it overseas the DCMS intervened, deferring the export licence on account of the painting’s outstanding national importance. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the painting in the UK.

The exceptional painting is part of a group of Swiss studies by Turner, widely considered to be amongst his greatest works in watercolour.

Tate is said to be giving “very serious consideration” to The Blue Rigi, following disappointment earlier this year when it lost out on the painting’s sister work, The Dark Rigi.

The Dark Rigi fetched £2.3 million at auction in June, and when the painting was later export-stopped Tate endeavoured to match the sum needed to acquire it. However, plans to raise the money were abandoned when the British owner dropped attempts to export it and instead sold it to a UK buyer.

Tate would be faced with an even greater financial challenge this time round, if it tries to match the offer price of £5.8 million for The Blue Rigi - much higher than the £2.7 million set for The Dark Rigi.

The Art Fund’s Director, David Barrie, commented on the situation. "We really hope that Tate will make a determined effort to acquire this extraordinary painting - The Art Fund will help in every way possible. We urge the government to do everything it can to ensure that Tate is not frustrated in its attempt to purchase this great work - as it was with The Dark Rigi, which was withdrawn from sale in circumstances which remain obscure."

The export licence of The Blue Rigi will be reconsidered on 20 November 2006. However, if Tate can express a serious intention to raise the funds, this period may be extended until 20 March 2007.

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Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)