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Outstanding cultural treasures saved from export for public

National treasures worth over £3.7 million were saved from export in the last year and purchased for public collections across the UK

They are highlighted in the 57th annual report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, published today.

Four items of outstanding significance for which matching offers were made and which the public can now enjoy are:

  • the great silver wine cistern of Thomas Wentworth, purchased by Temple Newsam (Leeds Museums and Galleries) for £2,073,648;
  • a zodiac settle by William Burges, purchased by Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museums for £800,000;
  • a William IV cabinet on stand made for William Beckford, and purchased by the Beckford Tower Trust for £285,000 (plus VAT); and
  • a lacquered Imari porcelain garniture purchased by the Ashmolean Museum for £109,250.

The Committee’s report highlights fourteen outstanding cultural objects and works of art which came before the Committee between 1 May 2010 and 30 April 2011.

The Reviewing Committee, administered by Arts Council England, makes recommendations on objects of outstanding significance to the Culture Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) who can then place a temporary export bar, giving museums, galleries, libraries and private individuals in the UK time to raise the necessary funds to purchase them. 

Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey said:

“It is wonderful that these treasures have been saved for the nation and this report highlights the important role of all those concerned in the export reviewing system. I am delighted that objects such as the great silver wine cistern of Thomas Wentworth and the Zodiac Settle by William Burges have been saved for UK collections, but I am of course disappointed that it has not been possible to save other important objects for the nation. 

Turbulence in the global economy will no doubt continue to present a challenge to our combined efforts and I hope to see renewed collaboration by all parties to explore new initiatives and develop new means to prevent future items from disappearing overseas.”

Liz Forgan, Chairman of Arts Council England said:

“It is gratifying to see that these important objects of artistic, cultural and historic significance have been kept in the UK for everyone to enjoy. This scheme has proved to be a highly effective way of ensuring that public collections have the opportunity to express their interest in, and raise funding for, the purchase of some of the country’s finest cultural treasures.”

The outstanding objects reviewed by the Committee between 1 May 2010 and 30 April 2011 covered a diverse range of fields from fine and decorative art to scientific instruments. Four objects were purchased by public institutions and a further three remain in the United Kingdom instead of being exported abroad. Matching funds could not be raised for seven items.

The Reviewing Committee and DCMS were pleased to note significant grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Art Fund, and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, as well as many generous charitable and private donations which made these purchases possible.

Notes to Editors

  1. For all media enquiries please contact Sam Gough, Media Officer, Arts Council England on 020 7973 5189, email: Sam.Gough@artscouncil.org.uk or Ken Hunt, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on 020 7211 6145, email: ken.hunt@culture.gsi.gov.uk.

  2. 57th Annual Report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.

  3. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, administered by Arts Council England, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the recommended fair market price.

  4. During the period of the Report i.e. 1 May 2010 - 30 April 2011 the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest was administered by the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council (“MLA”). On 1 October 2011 Arts Council England assumed responsibility for a number of the Cultural Property Functions previously carried out by the MLA including the administration of the Reviewing Committee.

  5. Private Offers (“Ridley Rules”) - In May 1990 Mr Nicholas Ridley, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, announced that in considering whether or not to grant an export licence for heritage items he proposed thenceforth to take account of an offer to buy the object during the deferral period from any source, whether public or private. In 1997 following consultation the policy was varied so that such private offers could only be taken into account by the Secretary of State if they were accompanied by undertakings guaranteeing reasonable public access, satisfactory conservation and security arrangements and retention of the object for a minimum period. This remains the policy today as set out in paras. 56 - 59 of Arts Council England’s Procedures and guidance for exporters of works of art 2011 Issue 1.

  6. The Committee’s annual report was published today, together with the seventh annual report to Parliament by the Culture Secretary on the operation of the export controls on objects of cultural interest.  A copy of the report can be downloaded from http://www.culture.gov.uk/.

  7. Full details of the items that were acquired by institutions in the United Kingdom are:

* A zodiac settle by William Burges was purchased by Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museums for £800,000. Funding comprised £430,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), £180,000 from the Art Fund and £190,000 from the Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery.   

* The great silver wine cistern of Thomas Wentworth was purchased by Temple Newsam (Leeds Museums and Galleries) for £2,073,648 Funding included £1,832,000 from NHMF, £140,000 from the Art Fund, £27,000 from The Monument Trust, £27,000 from The J Paul Getty Jnr Trust, £16,000 from the Leeds Collections Fund, £12,000 from the Fulford Bequest Fund, £10,000 from the Jacob Rothschild Foundation, £5,000 from The Goldsmiths Company and £4,648 from Leeds City Council (Museums & Galleries Acquisitions Fund).   

* A lacquered Imari porcelain garniture was purchased by the Ashmolean Museum for £109,250. Funding included £40,000 from the Art Fund and £20,000 from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.   

* A William IV cabinet on stand by William Beckford was purchased by the Beckford Tower Trust for £285,000 (plus VAT).  Funding comprised £148,000 from NHMF, £110,000 the Art Fund, £12,000 from individual donations and £15,000 contributed by H. Blairman & Son Ltd.  
  1. Matching funds could not be raised for seven items found to be of outstanding significance. The fair matching price at which each item was deferred is given in brackets: A painting said to be by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of a Young Woman _(£1,000,000), an Edward VI silver-gilt mounted Rhenish salt-glazed tankard (£179,787.50), a relief of _Ugolino imprisoned with his sons and grandsons _by Pierino da Vinci (£10,000,000), a painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner, Modern Rome - _Campo Vaccino (£30,284,968.75), a painting by Jan de Bray, David and the Return of the Ark of the Covenant (£1,622,260.13), a painting by Nicolas Poussin, Ordination (£15,000,000) and a painting by Frans Hals, Family Portrait in a Landscape (£7,750,000).

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