Art Fund helps save half of all 'national treasures' in 2013–14

  • Published 3 December 2014

Four of the eight works of art saved from export last year – including Anthony Van Dyck's final self-portrait – were secured for British collections with help from Art Fund grants totalling £820,000.

A pioneering landscape of Rome by Italian watercolourist Giovanni Battista Lusieri, a pair of wall hangings designed by May Morris, and a Napoleonic medal cabinet – all recipients of Art Fund grants – were among the eight works saved for the nation last year after being placed under an export bar by the British government, according to a report produced by Arts Council England.

Works of art saved: 2013–14

  • Jane Austen's gold and gem-set ring. Saved for the Jane Austen House Museum
  • Traictise from the Mendham Collection. Saved for the British Library
  • A pair of wall hangings designed by May Morris. Saved for National Museums Scotland with a £30,000 Art Fund grant
  • Anthony Van Dyck's final self-portrait. Saved for the National Portrait Gallery following a £500,000 Art Fund grant and public fundraising campaign
  • A panoramic view of Rome by Giovanni Battista Lusieri. Saved for the British Museum with a £140,000 Art Fund grant
  • The Monson Catholicon Anglicum. Saved for the British Library
  • A Napoleonic medal cabinet. Saved for the Victoria & Albert Museum with a £150,000 Art Fund grant
  • An Iron Age bronze mirror, saved for Oxfordshire Museum Services

Between 1 May 2013 and 30 April 2014, the UK's Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest referred 22 objects to the Culture Secretary, recommending that their export licences be deferred. Of those objects, eight were subsequently saved for British collections, with the Art Fund giving a total of £820,000 towards supporting four museums who had applied for grants towards funding their acquisitions.

The Art Fund also led a joint fundraising campaign with the National Portrait Gallery, raising £10 million to acquire Anthony Van Dyck's final self-portrait, which will be undertaking a three-year tour of British museums and galleries from January 2015. Members of the public made 10,000 donations totalling over £1.44m, and additional grants were given by the Heritage Lottery Fund, private trusts, and the Art Fund and National Portrait Gallery themselves.

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest was first established in 1952, with the purpose of assessing whether works of art should be allowed to leave the UK. An individual export licence is needed to purchase any cultural object over a certain age and monetary value. If a work of art is judged sufficiently important by the Reviewing Committee, its export licence can be deferred to allow time for an institution or individual to acquire the work so that it can be kept on public display in the UK.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund said: 'It is always wonderful to be able to keep items in the UK and on public display which might otherwise leave our shores and not be accessible for everyone to see. Many people will have been aware of the high profile and complex campaign to help the National Portrait Gallery purchase Van Dyck’s Self Portrait, but our grants for acquisitions beyond this may be less well known. We are delighted to have been able to help secure these invaluable works of art for British museums.'

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