The Dealer: You now have to pay more for Picasso and co - which could drive great modern art out of London

Our intrepid antiques writer outlines pesky new regulation facing collectors, and recalls some issues with a stuffed lion

Bureaucracy extends to all parts of life these days, so a word of caution if you are planning on purchasing a Picasso this year – the rules governing Droit de Suite (or Artist Resale Rights) have been extended.

This principal of a royalty paid to the families and estates of artists was introduced in France after World War I, and is now operational in most EU countries.

It is said that it was inspired by the situation in the 1850s when French painter Jean-Francois Millet was living in poverty whilst his painting “Angelus” resold for 800,000 gold francs.

In essence, any work of art sold for more than 1,000 euros will attract an additional fee of up to four per cent (which is capped at 12,500 euros, i.e. once your quarry is around the eye watering 2 million euros) payable by the purchaser which will then be distributed back to the artists’ descendants.

Although critics of the Artist Resale Rights rightly question just how much they will receive once administrative costs have been covered.

Before New Year’s Day the ARR had only been applied if the artist was still living. But now it covers those artists deceased within 70 years - so the likes of not only Picasso, but also Matisse, Lucian Freud, Bacon and Lowry are included along with the very much still kicking Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

In 2011 the secondary market for Modern and Contemporary art was dominated by America, the UK and China.

The eager art markets in the US, China, Hong Kong and Geneva, however, do not impose this added cost. One of the market fears is that this will drive the great contemporary pieces out of the UK, and specifically London, to be traded.

So if a Picasso or a Hirst is on this years’ shopping list be prepared to pay just that little bit more again.

“The poor animal had been shot by “Lieutenant Colonel H in the Kenyan Colony 1927””

As an antique dealer I am more affected by the Cites regulations ((the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

These cover the import and export of objects made with or containing certain endangered species such as coral, ivory, both tortoise and turtle shell, Brazilian rosewood, certain types of mahogany, whale teeth and conch shells.

Regulations brought in and imposed for the admirable prevention of trade of these “at risk” species but a minefield when you are asked to prove whether the ivory inlay in a 150 yr old cabinet comes from an African or an Indian elephant.

We have one piece I bought last year still stuck in America awaiting the correct paperwork to be able to export it, and then another set of paperwork again will be needed to be able to import it to us.

Back in the 1980s there was an antique fair in Cologne, where many British dealers went to exhibit.

Employees from the customs department seized anything with ivory which they deemed had not been imported with proper certification (from the perhaps obvious pianos with their tinkling white keys to Georgian bureaus which happened to have an ivory drawer pull!)

Talk about adhering to the letter of the law!

Also in the heady days of the 1980s we had a taxidermy lion in the showroom. He was standing magnificent, proud and dramatic, emerging from the undergrowth and in a glass and mahogany case. On this case was a brass plaque announcing that the poor animal had been shot by “Lieutenant Colonel H in the Kenyan Colony 1927”.

Eventually he was sold to a chap in Munich and it took ten of us to load him onto the lorry. We waved him farewell but his journey was not without incident - the lorry was stopped at customs with the officers declaring that he could go no further as he was an endangered species.

My wonderful transporter countered with: “It’s been f…ing dead for 50 years; you can’t get much more endangered than that!”

Eventually Leo set sail for Europe, but not before several months of form filling and endless conversations with HM Customs had elapsed.

Plus ca change!

Ian Butchoff is the founder and owner of Butchoff Antiques, located on Kensington Church Street. He entered the trade aged 11 and is today recognised as a leading authority on 19th century furniture. He is a co-founder and board member of the dealers’ association, LAPADA, and writes a regular column for Londonlovesbusiness.com.

Social Bookmarks