UK 'facing art export crisis'

UK 'facing art export crisis'
Tate Britain
Galleries like Tate Britain cannot compete with overseas buyers
The UK faces a cultural crisis if the government does not set up tax breaks to prevent important art going overseas, a government body has warned.

The government must work with the art trade and collectors to make sure important arts stays in the country, said Sir John Guinness, the chairman of the reviewing committee on the export of works of art.

"The objects that have been temporarily kept here, but then exported, invariably through lack of funds, greatly outnumber those that have been saved," Sir John told The Times.

Owners were tempted by the huge prices being offered by overseas buyers and the crisis could only escalate, he warned.

His committee can recommend temporary banning orders on work leaving the UK if the piece is decided to be in the national interest.

Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks
Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks may go overseas
Temporary bans on overseas sales, lasting three months, give galleries and museums a breathing space to try and find funds to buy and keep the artworks in question.

Several important pieces of art currently under temporary export ban are expected to end up overseas.

The J. Paul Getty Museum in California has put in a £25m offer to buy Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks from the Duke of Northumberland.

Sir Joshua Reynolds' Portrait of Omai, valued at £12m, is also receiving interest from overseas buyers, although both the Tate and the National Gallery have tried to prevent the sale.

The portrait of Richard Arkwright Junior with his family by Joseph Wright, an important Renaissance piece, was given a temporary ban on Tuesday.

Sir John's comments followed a Lords debate on Wednesday, which argued that capital gains tax for art sales should be cut from its current level of 30%.

Labour's Lord Strabolgi said the high cost of art had made it difficult for galleries to compete with private sellers overseas.

He called on the government to raise the inheritance tax ceiling to £20m, and to change the tax system so artworks sales were exempt from tax.

Premier league

A similar system is already in place in the US.

The Lords also called for the National Heritage Memorial Fund to be given £12m a year, £7m more than they currently receive.

The fund is used to buy artwork and cultural buildings for the state.

Britain could no longer afford to be in the "premier league of the art market", said Lord Luke of the Tories.

More effort should be put into protecting British paintings rather than non-British art, and money should be diverted to help improve the galleries and museums showing the art, he added.

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