Paul Russell

senior partner

Paul is a highly experienced, creative and tenacious litigator
+31 20 301 55 55

Proposals of Buma Committee not sufficient for the protection of Dutch cultural heritage

Publication date 3 March 2021

The sale of a drawing by Rubens, owned by Princess Christina, at an auction in New York caused great indignation and a discussion about the policy for cultural heritage in the Netherlands. This resulted in two advice committees, the Pechtold Committee and the Buma Committee. The latter has issued an interim opinion. If adopted, it could have serious consequences for art collectors and art dealers in the Netherlands.


The Committee Collection Netherlands – also known as the Buma Committee – has issued an interim opinion. It contains the main points of a new vision on the Netherlands Art Collection, i.e. cultural heritage that is vital for the Netherlands.

While the recommendations of the Advisory Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property – the Pechtold Committee – pleaded for more clarity by adopting a more active designation policy, the Buma Committee chooses a diametrically opposite solution. According to the Committee, the current designation procedure with its static list of cultural goods that may not be exported leads to urgency designations when a cultural good is put on the international market. This is an ad hoc policy and should be replaced by a structural solution.

Export control

Therefore, the Committee suggests to drop the list and introduce a standard check for the export of all cultural property instead, as, for example, in the United Kingdom. In fact, this means a general ban on the export of ancient and modern works of art, as I said before. Expanding the designation criteria of ‘irreplaceable’ and ‘indispensable’ to include the public interest does neither contribute to more freedom of disposition for the owners of cultural goods nor to more room for the art trade.

Longer purchase period

This also applies to the proposal to extend the purchase period for art objects from six weeks to six months. The only interest served is that of the State, which has more time to secure financing. But the international auction in which the work of art fit in is over, with all the consequences for the price the owner could have obtained for his property. In addition, another work of art could be on the market during the six months, as a result of which the purchase may still fall through. And then there is also the question whether someone will be prepared to take the risk that the work of art he buys may not be exported from the Netherlands.

Advice by committee of independent experts

Although it is, in principle, a good idea to have designations made by an expert committee that is independent of politics, politics is not the only thing from which this committee should be independent. The way in which the current list was compiled by ‘independent’ experts clearly demonstrates this. After all, it partly consists of cultural goods that could be found in museums on loan at the time of the compilation. That way, museums safeguarded their own collections at the expense of the rights of the lenders.

Cultural goods to become Dutch cultural heritage more quickly

Where a cultural object must be in the Netherlands for at least 50 years before it is  designated, against the wish of the owner, as protected cultural property, the Buma Committee wants to shorten this period to five years. Here, too, the rights of the owners are further violated.

National Acquisition Fund: just a Band-Aid

Though it is proposed to increase the budget of the National Acquisition Fund to € 100 million every four years, this is still insufficient in view of the prices on the art market. In addition, € 15 million of this budget are reserved for the insurance of international loans. In practice, each year, thus only € 12.5 million are available for museum acquisitions in general and € 8.75 million to keep cultural property in the Netherlands. This budget would have been exhausted after the purchase of the drawing by Rubens that started this discussion.

In brief: the Buma Committee does not provide sufficient financial means to meet its ambitious objectives. This makes the proposed far-reaching interventions in the free movement of art objects not very effective. It would be better to hold on to the old system with a static list, of which the preservation can be financed. This also provides more security for art dealers and collectors.

More information

Russell Advocaten has been specializing in art and law for many years. We closely monitor the developments concerning the protection of cultural objects and keep you updated of them via our website and LinkedIn. Do you have any questions about the import or export of artworks or do you need legal advice in an art and law matter? Please contact Paul W.L. Russell, LL.M. ( or 020-301 55 55).

    We process the personal data above with your permission. You can withdraw your permission at any time. For more information please see our Privacy Statement.

    Related publications

    African mask turns out to be worth millions. Can the seller undo the sale?

    An African mask that was sold for 150 euros fetched 4.2 million euros at an auction. Were the French sellers able to undo the sale? How would this case have ended in the Netherlands?

    Read more

    Crimean gold returns to Ukraine

    After nine years, it is finally clear to whom the Crimean treasures should go. According to the Supreme Court, they should go to the state of Ukraine, the owner and custodian of the archeological objects that were on loan to the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam in 2014. How did the Supreme Court reach its verdict?

    Read more

    Proper management by museums essential to prevent art theft

    News that an employee had allegedly stolen artefacts from the British Museum prompted Dutch television programme Nieuwsuur to interview Paul W.L. Russell, LL.M. As such thefts are rather common, it is important that museums manage and protect their collections properly. What should they pay particular attention to?

    Read more

    Lease of business premises: the difference between 230a- and 290-business premises

    Leasing 230a or 290 business premises? What do these terms mean anyway? And, most importantly, what are the consequences of this difference for lessors and lessees of business premises?

    Read more

    Recommendation to Dutch Supreme Court: Return Crimean treasures to Ukraine

    The dispute about the Crimean treasures is coming to a conclusion after nine years. As the advocate general has given his opinion, it is now up to the Supreme Court to give the final ruling in the Netherlands in this matter. Often the Supreme Court follows the opinion of the advocate general. What does this opinion entail?

    Read more

    Government response to advice Buma Committee inadequate

    At the last minute, in 2022, the Dutch government issued its response to the advice of the Committee Collection Netherlands (Buma Committee). What are the proposals? What consequences will they have for owners, heirs and collectors of art?

    Read more