Art Fund call for export changes

The Art Fund campaign is calling for a change to art export regulations following a campaign to save Rembrandt’s Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet from leaving Britain.

The Art Fund’s call follows a decision by the private owner of the work to withdraw their application for an export licence, effectively stopping the campaign.

However, although the Art Fund expressed its delight at the decision, it believes that the way export regulations operate could mean the painting will leave the UK at a future date.

The painting, which has been in Wales for 150 years and Britain for over 250 years,   was provisionally sold by the trustees of the Penrhyn estates in North Wales to an overseas buyer for £35m.  But culture minister, Ed Vaizey, placed a temporary ban on the export of the portrait until February 2016 in order to enable a UK buyer to try to raise the necessary funds to 'save it for the nation'.

The Art Fund had planned to raise the required price, c £22.5m (net of tax), to acquire the 17th-century masterpiece, and then to donate it to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales where its availability to the British public would be guaranteed.

However, if the owner of the portrait is prepared to wait ten years and reapply for an export licence, there would then be no tax concessions.  A national institution wishing to buy the painting might well find it too expensive and it would probably leave the country.

The Art Fund said, “This opportunity to secure Rembrandt’s magnificent painting for the nation – forever, and at a greatly reduced price – has not been possible and may now never be achievable.  The Art Fund sees it as a huge cultural loss to both the people of Wales and the wider UK.”

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