It must become more difficult to export a work of art of national importance. The Netherlands Collection Committee believes that a national export license system should be established to prevent important works of art from disappearing abroad, for example through an auction.
The committee, led by chairman Sybrand van Haersma Buma, was set up last year by the Council for Culture to contribute ideas about the preservation of Dutch heritage. Buma presented his final report to State Secretary Gunay Uslu of Culture and Media this morning.
The reason for the report is the indignation that arose when a drawing by artist Peter Paul Rubens from 1608 was offered at an auction in 2019. It turned out that it was in the possession of Princess Christina, the youngest sister of Princess Beatrix. The drawing was eventually sold for 6 million euros to an unknown buyer.
Dutch museums called the course of events, anonymously, “downright scandalous”. They felt that the princess might not have had a formal, but moral obligation to present the work to Dutch museums first. However, there was no legal possibility to stop the sale by a private person.
Currently, only 161 objects and collections require the approval of the minister for export. This concerns entries from the Register of Protected Cultural Goods, such as several works by Rembrandt, six barrel organs and a reliquary hammer from St. Maarten.
‘Irreplaceable and indispensable’
The recommended export license system only applies to cultural goods above a certain age and financial value. For example, the committee advocates a limit of 750,000 euros for modern art. For other categories such as paintings, photographs and antiquities, market agreements should be made.
An independent advisory committee must assess whether a work of art is “irreplaceable and indispensable” for the Netherlands on the basis of criteria laid down in the Heritage Act. If so, domestic buyers should be given up to one year to fundraise for purchase.
Purchased by the government
If that fails, the government itself will have to go public. An independent appraisal or, if necessary, the judge must determine the price of the object. The cultural object can only be exported if the State also fails to purchase the object.
The committee therefore also recommends topping up the Museum Purchase Fund to 100 million. In addition, fiscal measures must be introduced that can stimulate the culture of giving in the Netherlands.
If the permit is granted, the cultural object can be exported. It will therefore be possible to apply for a passport for cultural goods. This allows the cultural object to travel within the EU for ten years and possibly be traded.