Art Fund calls for export loophole to close

  • 21 January 2011

Art Fund Director, Stephen Deuchar has appeared on BBC News today to call for a reform to the current rules around the export of works of art.

Current system

When owners apply to take works of outstanding national importance out of the country, they are temporarily export-stopped, giving UK museums the chance to secure them for public collections. If a UK museum wants the work and is able to raise the money by the set deadline, the owner then agrees to sell – and the fundraising commences. However, as this agreement is not legally binding, we are seeing an increasing number of cases when once the museum has raised the money – often through a public appeal – the owner then refuses to sell. This is not only hugely wasteful in time and resources but the lack of certainty creates barriers for donors wishing to support fundraising campaigns and could put members of the public off donating to future appeals – potentially very damaging.

A call for change

We are calling for this loophole to be closed by imposing a binding obligation to sell the export stopped work of art in the event of a matching offer by a UK museum. This will ensure all parties are clear from the start, and will remove the uncertainty among museums when deciding whether to launch a fundraising appeal for an export-stopped work of art.

The call follows yesterday’s news that William Hoare of Bath’s Portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo will go on long-term loan to the National Portrait Gallery, rather than become part of its permanent collection, despite a successful fundraising campaign to acquire it. Although this is an example of how good relations between vendor and museum have resulted in a five year loan agreement, the painting could have been secured for the gallery’s permanent collection with this simple change to the export system.