Friday - 25 April 2014

What the nation saved… and what it didn’t

16 January 2012Written by Alex Capon

THE latest UK government report on the export of works of art revealed that a modest £3.7m worth of treasures were saved for the nation in 2011 after being blocked from leaving the country last year.

However, the value of works of art classified as historically or artistically important but later exported was substantially greater. Seven works valued at a combined £65.8m had their export temporarily blocked to allow funds to be raised to match the purchase price after they were deemed to meet the Waverley Criteria (drawn up to identify key pieces).

But after funding failed to materialise, they were eventually granted export licences. These works included JMW Turner's painting Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino, which sold at Sotheby's in London in July 2010 for £26.5m hammer and is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

In all, only four items which met the Waverley Criteria have ended up in UK public collections. These are:

• The enormous Thomas Wentworth silver wine cistern, picturedhere, which sold at Sotheby's in July 2010 for £2.2m (an auction high for English silver). Knocked down to an Asian private buyer, UK museums were given seven months to match this sum and, after grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and The Art Fund, it was finally acquired by the Tudor mansion Temple Newsam in Leeds.

• A zodiac settle by William Burges, which was due to be exported to America after an agreed sale for £800,000. It was purchased by Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museums, who raised funds from the same bodies.

• A William IV cabinet for William Beckford, whose owner applied to export it to the Netherlands. Valued at £285,000 (plus VAT), it was purchased by the Beckford Tower Trust who raised funds from the NHMF, the Art Fund, individual donations and £15,000 contributed by dealers H. Blairman & Son Ltd. It had previously appeared as a sleeper in an Sworders Interiors sale in September 2010 when it sold for £52,000.

• The lacquered Imari porcelain garniture which sold for £109,250 (including premium) at Christie's sale of items from Spencer House in July 2010. After an application to export the spectacularly decorated garniture to Dubai, it was purchased by the Ashmolean Museum who received funds from the Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

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