©Jane Austen’s House Museum. Photograph by Peter Smith.

Eight culturally significant objects prevented from export

Gareth Harris, 26.11.2014
Organisations including National Museums Scotland and the V&A have acquired works
The government placed temporary export bars on 22 items of cultural significance between May 2013 and April 2014, with eight objects valued at a total of £13.85m purchased for collections in the UK.

They include an Iron Age bronze mirror acquired by Oxfordshire Museum Services for £33,000; an Empire style medal cabinet (£534,000) which will be housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A); and a pair of wall hangings designed by May Morris which were purchased by National Museums Scotland for £61,770.

Four of the eight objects saved from export were part-funded by the Art Fund, which contributed £30,000 to the Morris wall hangings and £150,000 to the cabinet bought by the V&A. The Art Fund also gave £140,000 towards the acquisition of Giovanna Battista Lusieri’s 18th-century watercolour, Panoramic View of Rome: From the Capitoline Hill to the Aventine Hill, by the British Museum (£361,875).

Export licences were, however, issued for the remaining 14 items which have a total value of £66.86m.

More than 32,600 items valued at £1.46bn were issued with export licences after expert advisers decided they were not of sufficient national importance. A further 23,307 items valued at £9.86bn 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.

In total, 29 cases were referred to the committee from 2013 to 2014. One case “gave rise to issues which are still being resolved and will be reported in a future year”, according to a report issued by the Department for Culture Media and Sport.

Three items did not meet the Waverley criteria, while another three were later withdrawn after case hearings (one of these, Celtic chariot lynch pin, was subsequently donated to the British Museum).

The final 22 cases were subsequently referred to the Secretary of State for deferral (all committee deferral recommendations were accepted). One work, a self-portrait by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, was deferred at £12.5m but then withdrawn. The painting was subsequently purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in London for £10m.

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