A late 12th century reliquary – among the many highlights of the Guelph Treasure. Image copyright: bpk/Kunstgewerbemuseum, SMB.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Here are some extra forthcoming statutes – plus some of the legal cases that could set the news agenda.

■ A consultation on the future of the export system for art, antiques and antiquities was launched in December with proposals to force owners to ‘honour their commitment’ to sell when a matching offer is made from a UK buyer. Owners cannot currently be forced to sell even if the price is matched. Consultation closes on February 23.

■ The proposed EU cultural goods bill, with its demands for licences and paperwork for objects over 250 years old, could become law in 2019. Elements of the bill have been described as ‘unworkable’ by various trade bodies that are lobbying MEPs to propose amendments.

■ In 2018, the long-running case surrounding the Guelph Treasure – a collection of medieval devotional art that entered Berlin’s Kunstgewerbemuseum in 1935 – was given the green light to go to trial in the US.

The lawsuit, brought by the heirs of three Frankfurt art dealers, is the first heard under the new Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act that has made it easier for Nazi-related restitution claims to be filed in the US.

■ An update to the Offensive Weapons Bill could have a negative impact on the shipping of antique swords and knives. The bill, which is currently proceeding through parliament, prohibits the delivery of bladed items to residential addresses and does not include an exemption for antiques.

■ A separate government law could also impact the sale of antique firearms. The Home Office has consulted on proposals for new regulations to be added to the Policing and Crime Act to “enshrine in law a new definition of antique firearms, which will help ensure older firearms which still pose a danger to the public are licensed”. Further regulation may also emerge via the government’s Serious Violence Strategy announced in April 2018.

■ As part of the Making Tax Digital programme, from April 1, VAT returns will need to be submitted directly using software compatible with HMRC’s digital platforms. One concern among professional dealers is how the required software will manage margin scheme claims (the VAT due on the difference between what they paid for an item and what they sell it for).

■ The legal action that Sotheby’s begun in 2017 against dealer Mark Weiss over the $10m private sale of a ‘Frans Hals’ that it now says is a forgery is scheduled to be heard at London’s High Court in April.


'A Portrait of a Gentleman' by Frans Hals which was sold in a private deal brokered by Sotheby’s in 2011 has had its authenticity questioned.

The painting, Portrait of a Gentleman, was supplied to Sotheby’s by Weiss, who has said he will “contest the claim vigorously”. It is a chance to learn more about how private sales and authentications work.

■ Scrutiny of the auction market by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) continues. Last year, the ASA criticised Christie’s notification of fees, such as buyer’s premium, and said that the auction house must rethink how it displays fees next to estimates.