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Battle to preserve ‘Omai portrait’ in UK

Editor’s Note: On March 31, the National Portrait Gallery and the J. Paul Getty Museum confirmed their plans to jointly acquire and share ownership of the Portrait of Omer.

Tonhe is young The man pictured was the first Polynesian to visit Britain. He was brought to London from the South Pacific in 1774 by British explorer Captain James Cook and presented to King George III. He learned to ride a horse and play chess, and sat in front of a portrait of Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy.

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For more than 200 years after Reynolds’ death, the Omer Portrait remained in the possession of the Howard family and hung at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. But in 2001, the painting was sold to Irish tycoon John Magnier, sparking a protracted standoff. Mr. Magnier wanted to take the painting abroad forever. The government considers it to be of historic importance to the UK and has repeatedly refused him to do so. However, British buyers have been unable to raise the funds needed to get Mr Magnier back before the ban on exporting portraits expires. A solution may be at hand right now, involving the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; it could serve as a template for other precious artworks that are too expensive for the state to afford.

More than 150 countries impose export restrictions on their cultural treasures. The exception is the US, which only restricts the sale of works by US artists owned by the federal government. Japan has a list of 906 treasures, including swords, that cannot be sold or even moved. Many European countries have a right of first refusal, allowing the government to step in and buy any work up for sale.

The United Kingdom uses a mixed system to balance the goals of preserving important items with protecting the rights of their owners. About 30,000 items are sold each year to buyers who want to take them abroad. Britain has no stock of national treasures and no right of first refusal. Instead, all works older than 50 years or worth more than £65,000 ($80,000) require an export license. Most were waved through. The Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Value Export Review Committee, composed of curators, dealers and art historians, meets monthly to evaluate older or more valuable works.

These are judged against three measures of the “Waverley Criteria”, named after the chairman of a government committee in the early 1950s: historical significance, aesthetic importance and the work’s contribution to scholarship. The most important works were temporarily banned from being stored in the UK while domestic institutions tried to raise the funds to buy them. For example, in 2020, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich used the system to purchase a sled that Ernest Shackleton used on one of his Antarctic expeditions. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s handwritten anti-slavery poem in ancient Greek is subject to an export ban; potential British buyers have until mid-May to raise £20,400 to buy it.

Rising art prices are testing the system like never before. Mr Magnier paid £10.3m for Portrait of Omai. Now he’s asking £50m (a fair value, according to independent dealer Anthony Molde). National Portrait Gallery (liquefied petroleum gas) had been trying to raise cash in London but was only half-funded by the time the export ban on the pictures was last extended in March.Another extension is unlikely, so liquefied petroleum gas The money was not found until June 10th.

this liquefied petroleum gasThe answer is to co-acquire the painting with Getty, probably half the time in London and the other half in California. Such an agreement is unprecedented in the UK, but in 2015 France and the Netherlands struck a similar agreement to share ownership of two important portraits of Rembrandt.

The Waverley Standard aims to keep Britain’s cultural treasures at home so they can be seen at all times. But at some point, protecting a work of art for the nation may increasingly become the only achievable goal.this liquefied petroleum gas If they give up, it won’t see its efforts as a compromise (insiders say the Getty deal is close to being finalized). After being closed for renovation for three years, the gallery hopes to open its doors again on June 22, with “Portrait of Omer” as its king.

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