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In a move designed to reopen Italy to foreign buyers, the proposals include the introduction of a monetary threshold to works of art that hitherto have required export licences.

It is the first time Italian auctioneers, the dealing community and the representatives of international firms have come together to form a lobbying group aimed at achieving a level playing field for Italy in the European art market.

This group of key art market players, advised by Milanese art lawyers CBM & Partners who have drafted the amendment, include the Associazione Antiquari d'Italia, the Italian Association of Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries, auction houses Bolaffi (Turin), Minerva (Rome), Il Ponte (Milan) and Finarte (Milan) plus Artcurial (Paris), Christie's and Sotheby's.

Meeting with Minister

On October 2 the group met at the Biennale Internazionale di Antiquariato di Firenze to discuss final plans ahead of an audience with the minister of culture Dario Franceschini on Wednesday (October 15).

Valentina Favero at CBM told ATG the firm are now hopeful of a change in the law before the end of 2016 (it would need to happen within the current parliament that ends in 2018) and says the government has been taking the key proposal seriously since it was first mooted at an official level in late 2014.

CBM have presented the changes as a possible stimulus for economic growth, highlighting the country's failure to take advantage of the recent art market boom - and the escalating prices for Italy's own crop of post-war artists in particular.

The proposals aimed at reversing these fortunes include a financial threshold below which items could be sold to international buyers without the need for red tape. This amendment would finally bring Italy in line with other EU countries after more than a century of protectionism.

The group of dealers and auctioneers is also hoping to streamline procedures when processing those items that would still require export licences. It wants to amend a law dictating that any work created more than 50 years ago by a dead artist requires an export licence, regardless of its market price.

The suggestion is to extend the term to 75 or 100 years - something that would benefit the Modern and Contemporary market in particular.

ATG Comment

According to successive TEFAF reports, over the past decade the Italian art market has rarely constituted more than 1% of global sales. Many have put the blame firmly at the doorstep of protectionist legislation first introduced in 1909 when fears abounded that Italy's rich cultural heritage was being lost.

The intentions were good but the long-term effect of a famously bureaucratic system was that foreign buyers - strung by red tape once too often - simply began to turn their backs on the Italian market. Vendors too have voted with their feet. It is no accident that a Lucio Fontana or a Piero Manzoni is more likely to be sold in London than on home soil.

Change is long overdue.