UK places export bans on works by Turner and Monet

UK places export bans on works by Turner and Monet
UK Parliament. Courtesy WIkimedia Commons.

The UK has recently placed export bans on two major works of art, one sold for millions of pounds and another is worth millions, in the hopes of keeping them both in the country.

JMW Turner, ‘The Dark Rigi’, 1842. Courtesy Flickr Commons.

The Dark Rigi by JMW Turner

Painted in 1842, the watercolour by Turner is the last painting of a series the artist made of the Swiss mountains to be held in a public collection. Valued at £10 million, the painting resides in the Tate Britain’s vast collection of Turner paintings. From the viewer’s vantage point, the painting looks out over Lake Lucerne at the eerie, yet majestic Rigi massif. The painting feels like a Turner with its intense use of yellow and atmospheric lens.

‘Turner is one of Britain’s greatest ever artists and The Dark Rigi is a beautiful and emotive work painted at the pinnacle of his career,’ said Rebecca Pow, arts minister for the UK. ‘This work is of national importance and if it were to go abroad it would be a terrible loss to the country.’ Thus, the UK has put a temporary export ban on the painting that lasts until December 1st.

The ban puts fears that the painting could be exported and then sold to a foreign buyer at ease, for now. Pow made the preventative decision under the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest. What the ban does is if the work is sold to a non-UK buyer, a delay is placed on granting its export license in order to give a UK buyer the opportunity to raise the necessary funds to buy the work. If an earnest offer is made on the painting, the export ban could be extended through June 1st of next year.

‘Le Palais Ducal’, Claude Monet, 1908. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Le Palais Ducal by Claude Monet

Similar to the recent ban placed on Turner’s The Dark Rigi, is that placed on Monet’s 1908 masterpiece, which sold for £27.5 million at Sotheby’s to an unnamed foreign buyer in February. The painting has been barred from leaving the UK since it sold and now, British galleries are under pressure to raise the necessary £706,800 VAT before mid-November to keep it in the UK.

The painting was created when Monet spent a few months in Venice during 1908; it is one of three paintings he did of the Doge’s palace from this particular point of view. The watery pastel palette gives a romantic, dream-like feel to the Italian city. In 1925, Erich Goeritz, a textile manufacturer who was based in Berlin at the time, bought the painting. He then moved to the UK and the painting remained in his family until it’s February sale.

The work, which Sotheby’s Europe chairman Helena Newman called ‘spellbinding’ and a ‘true masterpiece’ at the time of its sale, has been banned from export under suggestion by the same committee that advised Pow to restrict travel for Turner’s work. ‘This is a rare and beautiful example of Monet’s Venetian studies,’ said Pow, ‘and I hope that the funds can be raised to keep this treasure in the UK.’

These export bans are not permanent and the coming months will offer more on the fate of the set of paintings. Their restrictions do create an interesting juxtaposition, though, as the UK works hold onto artworks while other countries have called on the UK to return various works.