Wednesday 27 November 2013

More and More Art Leaving Britain

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest has for the past 60 years been regarded as Britain’s “cultural safety net” – a means to save some of the country’s most precious works of art from being sold abroad and disappearing from public view. It recommends which of the many thousands of artworks destined for export should be "saved for the nation". In the last two years, less than a third of the antiques, paintings and manuscripts thus identified actually remained in Britain. Instead many items have been lost to collectors abroad because the funds could not be found to keep them in the country. As a result, pieces of outstanding significance are leaving the country and posterity will come to regret not doing more to save them (Oliver Wright, "Not 'saved for the nation': Britain selling more art than ever before", Independent 18 November 2013).

In a way this whole sorry business is an echo of the Treasure Process and the way Britain's archaeological heritage is trashed day after day with the nation "saving" just a few of the more glittery pieces and abandoning any hopee of doing much about the problem as a whole. Likewise one may be sure that "posterity will come to regret not doing more" in the face of such destruction.

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