Millions In Art Donations Boost UK Museums


Turner, Hepworth and Sickert saved for the Nation to enjoy

National treasures worth millions  were saved from export and purchased for public collections in lieu of taxes across the UK, in the last year . 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 by the DCMS. The new rules will grant up to 25 per cent relief on income tax or capital gains tax to donors who give away major works of art or historical objects to the nation. Companies that donate will be eligible for a reduction in corporation tax.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Tate director, described the cultural gifts scheme as; “a major step forward, both in encouraging philanthropy and in helping to strengthen public collections across the country”. Highlights include, a sculpture by the late Barbara Hepworth sculpture from 1973 called Meditation which will go to Aberdeen Art Gallery , a JMW Turner landscape painted in Rome, which will go to the National Galleries of Scotland; an early 16th century religious painting by the Ferrara painter Il Garofalo, which is going to the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge as well as a collection of 30 Walter Sickert paintings, drawings and etchings put together by his patron Morton Sands, which will go to the Ashmolean in Oxford. Under the proposals an expert panel decides whether a potential gift is sufficiently “pre-eminent” to be accepted. An average of £15m worth of art works a year are transferred to UK museums under the “acceptance in lieu” scheme.

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.

Other donations some in lieu of taxes include, 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).

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 Acceptance in Lieu (AiL) scheme allows people to offer items of cultural and historical importance to the State in full or part payment of their inheritance tax, capital transfer tax or estate duty. The Scheme is currently the most important means of acquiring important works of art and cultural objects for public ownership. Once accepted, they are distributed to museums, galleries and public archival depositories throughout the UK.

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.” The Culture Minister said he was “delighted” that the objects were saved, adding that it the report “highlights the important role of all those concerned in the export reviewing system.”  However, he expressed concern it was “not possible to save other important objects for the nation”, expressing his “hope to see renewed collaboration by all parties to explore new initiatives and develop new means to prevent future items from disappearing overseas.” Both 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.

The Scheme offers clear tax benefits to owners. Items are generally worth 17 percent more if offered in lieu of tax than if sold on the open market at the same price, because tax must be paid on the amount an object is sold for. Arts Council England administers the Acceptance in Lieu scheme on behalf of DCMS. The Department remains responsible for policy oversight of the Scheme, and in particular deals with all land cases, in partnership with the Arts Council and HM Revenue and Customs as ministerial approval is required for the acceptance of land and estates in lieu of inheritance tax facilitates the National Heritage Act 1980 Part II , which sets out the legislative framework by which property is approved and accepted in lieu of tax, disposal arrangements and reporting reviews and develops AiL policy.

The scheme, introduced a century ago, has been used to secure works such as John Constable’s “Stratford Mill” and Pablo Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” for the nation. The new measure, announced at the time of this autumns statement, has been welcomed by galleries and museums which have lobbied hard for a tax break to stimulate lifetime giving. They remain concerned however, over whether the generosity of the tax relief available to donors will be sufficient to encourage new donors. It is common practice in the US and much of Europe who benefit from tax breaks from Art donations.


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