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KNOW YOUR ARTWORK


Pandora Mather-Lees discusses fine art export sanctions and the associated risks with crossing international borders without the relevant paperwork


I


n August 2015 Sailing Yacht ADIX was arrested in Corsica against a backdrop of media attention


and a Picasso masterpiece which had been adorning the interior was confiscated. Until this time, few in the industry would have been aware of the implications of cultural heritage laws for captains, crew or indeed the yacht management companies.


The painting in question now sits in Madrid National Museum and the owner, Jaime Botin, faced up to 4 years in prison and a potential €100m smuggling fine. In most cases the objects are simply confiscated on the spot and subsequently destroyed or unceremoniously disposed of. It is unclear how many such incidents concerning superyachts have evaded the Press, however with increasingly valuable artworks on board, these itinerant floating homes entering new territories are forming a rich picking ground for customs and international authorities.


National treasure laws exist in developed territories to preserve its nation’s heritage for future generations; a kind of anchor for our place in history and a means by which we inform our past. Objects may have significant fiscal as well as cultural value, and countries are becoming more protective and even aggressive in their bid to win objects back. In some cases this has created diplomatic incidents.


Each territory has its own thresholds, standards and rules. In the UK, the Waverley Committee established three principles in the 1950s. This Arts Council committee decides whether an


object marked for export is of outstanding aesthetic beauty, of critical importance for study and educational purposes or whether it represents a valuable part of the nation’s history. Lawrence of Arabia’s dagger, Jane Austen’s Ring and Canova’s Three Graces were refused export licences for such reasons and English museums and philanthropists were sought to match the sale price to compensate the new foreign owner so that they can remain in the UK. Even if granted the right to leave the country, licences have been revoked. In a recent extraordinary case, Italy revoked its licence for a painting of Camille Borghese sent to the Frick Collection in Manhattan. Italian authorities claimed “they did not know at the time the sitter was Borghese” despite the fact that there was a clearly marked label to this effect on the reverse! Understanding documentation relating to items on board is thus critical especially when onboarding new pieces of any value.


Endangered species Such laws are just one of the export sanctions risks that captains and chief stews must be trained to field. Endangered species is another. ‘CITES’ regulations were established when 182 countries signed up to the Washington Convention in 1973 to control the movement across borders of what now amounts to 36,000 species and growing. These include coral, ivory, rosewood, butterflies and any number of oddities that have ended up aboard luxury vessels.


Superyachts have been impounded for something as innocuous as a fish skeleton to something as ridiculous as a butterfly painting by artist Damian Hirst. Industry anecdotes also include one rock musician’s rosewood guitar, another’s grand piano for its ivory and an owner’s inlaid cabinet where the ivory was hacked out Why are these laws in place and why are


110 | SUMMER 2019 | ONBOARD


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