Register now! Employment Webinar “Tricky sickness issues” (17 June 2021)

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.

bescherming-cultureel-erfgoed-weblijst.d16a1c-1.jpg

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. (paul.russell@russell.nl or 020-301 55 55).

    Share on social media

    • Art
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Russell Advocaten recommended by The Legal 500 2021

    20 April 2021

    Russell Advocaten has for the 17th consecutive year in a row been included in The Legal 500. We are pleased with the recognition for the quality of our legal services by experts and clients. Please read what they say about us:

    read on
    • Art

    New rules restitution policy also apply to old cases

    30 March 2021

    The Dutch restitution policy returns to its original principles and is rightly becoming more generous. Cases that have already been settled can also be resubmitted. What will change in the policy?

    read on
    • Art

    Dutch restitution policy has gone too far in the protection of Netherlands art property

    8 December 2020

    Russell Advocaten noticed in its proceedings before the Dutch Restitutions Committee that the committee increasingly attached importance to the interest of the current owners. This is contrary to the Washington Principles. The committee appointed to evaluate Dutch restitution policy agrees with us in its “Striving for Justice” report.

    read on
    • Art
    • Litigation

    Dutch government can block restitution of Nazi-looted art by designating it a protected cultural object

    4 December 2020

    Even if the Restitutions Committee recommends to return looted art, it is not certain that the work of art will actually return to its rightful claimants. It could be that the work of art is irreplaceable and indispensable to Dutch cultural heritage and may not leave the Netherlands.

    read on
    • Art

    13 November 2020: VKCR-event on the protection of cultural goods and the Heritage Act

    13 November 2020

    At the online symposium of the Vereniging Kunst Cultuur Recht on the Heritage Act and the protection of cultural goods, Paul W.L. Russell, LL.M. threw a few stones into the pond. How useful are protective measures to keep cultural heritage in the Netherlands without making underlying purchase funds directly available? Is the designation procedure necessary?

    read on
    • Art
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Russell Advocaten leading firm in Legal 500 2020

    16 April 2020

    Russell Advocaten has been included in The Legal 500 for the 16th consecutive year. We are pleased with the recognition for the quality of our legal services by experts and clients. Read what they say about us:

    read on
    • Art
    • Contracts

    Rijksmuseum Twenthe pays into a fake bank account. What are the options?

    6 February 2020

    The Rijksmuseum Twenthe paid almost EUR 3 million into a fake bank account. Hackers had taken over the correspondence between the museum and an art dealer on the purchase of a painting by Constable. Who pays for the damage? The museum or the art dealer?

    read on
    • Art

    Art export licences suspended

    27 January 2020

    Minister Van Engelshoven has reacted to the report of Pechtold Committee. What does this mean for the art trade and private collectors?

    read on