Pictured: Lobster Telephone (White Aphrodisiac), by Salvador Dalí and Edward James, acquired by by National Galleries of Scotland for nearly £900,000

Works worth £3m kept in UK after export bars

Bethan Kapur, 02.05.2019
UK institutions purchased seven works in 2017-18
Artworks worth £3m were saved from export in 2017-18, after temporary export bars were placed on them and they subsequently found UK-based buyers.

The 64th annual report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest was published last week.

It says that 12 objects were placed under export deferral, seven of which were then purchased by UK institutions, preventing them from travelling overseas.

The purchased items include two important surrealist works by Salvador Dalí, made in collaboration with his British patron, Edward James. Mae West Lips Sofa was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum for just under £500,000, and Lobster Telephone (White Aphrodisiac) was purchased by National Galleries of Scotland for nearly £900,000.

Other items include a marble bust of Queen Victoria by Alfred Gilbert, and an annotated volume of works by Ben Jonson, offering scholars unique insight into the performance of pre-Restoration plays.

One of the more unusual purchases was a Roman figurine, bought by Chelmsford Museum for £550. Although much less expensive than other items, it holds its own significance because it now sits less than five miles from where it was originally discovered.

Hayden Phillips, the chair of the committee, said: “While we have not been able to retain all of the objects which we recommended for temporary export referral those that have been purchased by UK institutions represent a significant gain for public access to our cultural life.

“I am grateful for the commitment of my colleagues, for that of the many Independent assessors who join us to help make the important judgements which are required, and for that of the staff at the arts council who make up our secretariat.”

Nicholas Serota, the chair of Arts Council England, said: “The retention of seven national treasures in the UK where they can be enjoyed by the public is a real achievement.”

Michael Ellis, the arts minister, said: “These items help tell the story of our history and culture and it is right that we try to save them for the nation.”

In total, 27,300 works of cultural interest worth more than £1.5bn were licensed for export.

Pictured: Lobster Telephone (White Aphrodisiac), by Salvador Dalí and Edward James, acquired by by National Galleries of Scotland for nearly £900,000 

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