An 18th century Chinese porcelain casket, which was bought by the Bowes Museum in County Durham for £193,250. Credit: Bowes Museum

Six culturally significant objects prevented from export

Rebecca Atkinson, 17.03.2014
But others could be lost because of lack of funding
The government placed temporary export bars on 19 items of cultural significance between May 2012 and April 2013, with six objects valued at nearly £11.2m purchased for collections in the UK.

They include paintings by George Stubbs of a kangaroo and a dingo, which were acquired by the National Maritime Museum in London. The artworks were prevented from leaving the UK after an unnamed buyer bought them for the National Gallery of Australia.

Cultural objects of more than 50 years of age, and above a certain price, require a licence for export.

A new report shows there were more than 12,000 applications for export licences in 2012/13, of which 1,500 were for archives, manuscripts and other documents.

More than 33,000 items valued at £1.66bn were issued with licences after expert advisers decided they were not of sufficient national importance. A further 13,284 items valued at £8.85bn were issued with export licences because they had been imported into the UK within the past 50 years.

Export licences rejected by expert advisers are referred to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, which advises the culture secretary on whether a cultural object is of national importance using the Waverley criteria.

It considered 24 cases over the year, 18 of which were restricted from leaving the UK (plus one from the previous year). Matching funds could not be raised for 12 items valued at £103m, meaning export licences will now be issued. They include a study by a Raphael and an amber games board attributed to Georg Schreiber.

William Inglewood, chairman of the reviewing committee, said: “I am very pleased that, due to a significantly helpful tax system that can be deployed to help retain treasures of national importance in the UK, institutions have been able to buy these magnificent items.

“We must not however be complacent. A number of treasures were not retained which is a national loss, and everyone involved must strive to find ways to help encourage this not to happen in the future.”

Members of the reviewing committee have expressed concerns that items of national significance are being exported abroad because of funding issues.

Culture secretary Maria Miller said: “I am concerned over the committee’s observation that expert advisers may not always refer objects that might potentially meet the Waverley criteria, possibly because they sense that funds may not be available for the purchase of export deferred items and I would welcome the committee’s further views on how this problem might be addressed.”

Other items purchased for UK museums during the year include an 18th century Chinese porcelain casket, which was bought by the Bowes Museum in County Durham for £193,250.