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Important works of art and culture saved for future generations in 2012/13

  • Date: 27 February 2014
  • Area: National
Export of Objects of Cultural Interest cover

Items by George Stubbs and Pietro Lorenzetti were among six national treasures, worth more than £11.2 million, saved from leaving the country in the last year and purchased for public collections across the UK.

They are highlighted in the 59th annual report Export of Objects of Cultural Interest by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, published yesterday.

Three examples of items that have been acquired by British institutions for permanent public access, study and enjoyment are:

  • The Kongouro from New Holland and Portrait of a Large Dog by George Stubbs were purchased by The National Maritime Museum. The paintings are significant visual records of Captain James Cook's first epic Endeavour voyage of discovery (1768-1771) and represent the first depiction of an Australian kangaroo and a dingo in Western art (£5.5 million)
  • A painting by Pietro Lorenzetti, Christ between Saints Paul and Peter, the only picture in a British collection with an unquestioned attribution to this important medieval artist, was bought by Hull City Council's Ferens Art Gallery (£1.6 million)
  • A spectacular Regence ormolu-mounted Chinese porcelain casket, which features sections of Chinese porcelain set in ornate gilt-bronze mounts and thought to be the only one of its kind, was bought by The Bowes Museum in County Durham (£193,250)

Tax system enables cultural treasures to stay in the UK

Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, said: 'I am very pleased that, due to a significantly helpful tax system that can be deployed to help retain treasures of national importance in the UK, institutions have been able to buy these magnificent items. Without these benefits and the support of the funding bodies, they would certainly have gone abroad. We must not however be complacent. A number of treasures were not retained which is a national loss, and everyone involved must strive to find ways to help encourage this not to happen in the future.'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: 'I congratulate all those involved in the fundraising efforts to keep these six national treasures here in the UK.  The export licensing system is an incredibly valuable tool in preventing items like these from disappearing abroad and ensuring they will be enjoyed for generations to come.'

Exports licensing - how it works

Cultural objects of more than 50 years of age, and above a certain price, require a licence for export out of the UK. When an export licence application is objected to by an Expert Adviser it is referred to the Reviewing Committee. The Committee, serviced by Arts Council England, advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria.

If an object meets one or more of the criteria, the Committee will recommend that the case is deferred. The Secretary of State can then place a temporary export bar on the item, which gives museums, galleries, libraries and private individuals in the UK time to raise funds to purchase them.

Learn more about the work of the Reviewing Committee