UK Sells $2.8 Billion Worth of Cultural Items to Foreigners

The Guardian is reporting that nearly 33,000 pieces of important cultural items and artifacts from Great Britain have been sold to foreign buyers.  The total dollar amount was 1.7 billion GBP, which converts to approximately $2.8 billion. View the  breakdown in the block quote below along with some of the major items lost.

The Guardian reports
Britain lost more than 33,000 works of art, archaeological artefacts and other culturally important items – including a Picasso masterpiece – to rich foreign buyers last year.

A treasure trove of more than £1.7bn-worth of old masters paintings, Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, ancient weapons and prehistoric archaeological items were allowed to be sold overseas in the year to May 2013, according to official statistics issued by the government.

Ed Vaizey, the culture secretary, personally intervened to try to prevent the sale of 19 of the most culturally important items, but was only able to save six of the cheapest for the nation.

Among those lost despite Vaizey's efforts were Picasso's Child with a Dove, which the Spanish artist painted when he was just 19 and is considered one of his most important works.

The painting, which had been in British hands since 1924 and was on loan to the National Gallery, was sold at auction at Christie's for £50m to a Qatari collector. It was sold on behalf of the Aberconway family in Wales, who were bequeathed the painting in 1947 following the death of art collector Samuel Courtauld.

Raphael's drawing Head of a Young Apostle, which the Renaissance draughtsman created in about 1519-21, was also issued with an export licence after no British buyer could match the £29m New York billionaire Leon Black offered for it at auction.

The drawing has been part of the Duke of Devonshire's collection at Chatsworth in Derbyshire since the 1700s. Peregrine Cavendish, the 12th and current Duke of Devonshire, said he had to sell the work to "benefit the long-term future of Chatsworth and its collections".

The duke also sold Louis de Gruuthuse's copy of The Deeds of Sir Gillion de Trazegnies in the Middle East. The 15th-century Flemish manuscript, which features artwork by Lieven van Lathem, had been part of the Chatsworth collection since 1817 but was sold to the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles for £3.85m.

Vaizey had placed temporary export bans on the 19 works on the advice of a government committee set up after the second world war to prevent the loss of national treasures. Temporary export bans are placed on the most culturally important works in the hope that rich British benefactors or museums can be encouraged to match the offers of foreign buyers.

The committee, set up on the recommendation of former chancellor Viscount Waverley in 1952, recommended a temporary block be placed on 19 items collectively worth £115m.

British buyers only stumped up enough for six items worth £11.2m. The saved items included two George Stubbs paintings, including the first depictions of a kangaroo and a dingo in Western art, and maps of Hampton Court.

A ring that once belonged to Jane Austen was also kept in the UK after campaigners raised enough money to match the £152,450 US singer Kelly Clarkson had paid for it at auction. This item is not included in the statistics as the transaction took place after the period they covered.

Vaizey said: "There are wonderful treasures in Britain that we want to protect for the public. Our export licensing system ensures that items of importance to us as a nation are identified, and that an opportunity is provided for them to stay in the UK. The many items that have been saved in this way over the years would easily fill a museum or gallery and last year a number of national treasures, including a painting by Lorenzetti, a ring belonging to Jane Austen and two remarkable paintings by Stubbs were saved for the nation so they can be enjoyed by all."

The nation faces losing further culturally important works, including Poussin's The Infant Moses trampling Pharaoh's Crown (c1645-6) and a 1641 Van Dyck self-portrait, unless rich benefactors can find £26.5m to save them before temporary export bans run out.

The value of works of art lost to Britain

Paintings, foreign £489m

Paintings, British, modern £463m

Drawings, prints, watercolours £187m

Manuscripts, documents and archives £119m

Oriental furniture, porcelain and works of art £59m

Transport £58m

Silver, metalwork and jewellery £49m

Sculpture £48m

Musical instruments £23m

Paintings, portraits of British persons £21m

Oriental antiquities £21m

Furniture and woodwork £19m

Middle East antiquities £19m

Prehistory & Europe £18m

Photographs £13m

Books, maps etc £11m

Egyptian antiquities £11m

Tapestries, carpets etc £10m

Pottery £5m

Clocks and watches £5m

Coins and medals £5m

Scientific and mechanical material £2m

Drawings: architectural, engineering and scientific £2m
Source: The Guardian

No comments: