British national patrimony

Thirty years ago the British government drew up a list of 35 privately-owned paintings, on British territory, that should be kept in Britain for reasons of national heritage. The pictures were deemed “of such outstanding quality that they should not under any circumstances be allowed to leave the country.” Many were hanging in country homes, and many have since been acquired by British public sector museums. The British government will help institutions bid more heavily for such pictures, to keep them in the country.

N.B.: Not a single British work is on the list.

Here is the full story.

My take: On one hand, the cosmopolitan British perspective is to be applauded. But why oh why does the British government feel it is a superior artistic investor? Taxpayers never see this money again and most of them never go see the pictures. Don’t cite museum visitorship statistics to me, most people never see the pictures or would know if they are gone. And with the Louvre just a few hours across the Chunnel, it is really necessary to stop a Poussin from going to the United States? Odd that a national patrimony policy should grant its biggest subsidy to foreign tourists and to the reputations of foreign artists.


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