cezanne painting worth £13.5 million banned from leaving uk

Culture minister Ed Vaizey has put an export ban on the masterpiece, urging a UK buyer to match the sale price.

by Samira Larouci
23 June 2015, 3:45pm

Cezanne's Vue sur L'Estaque et la Chåteau d'If was just sold at Christies in auction for over £13.5million to an anonymous overseas buyer, but Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has banned it from leaving the country, in the hope that a domestic buyer can step in and keep the masterpiece in the UK. The artwork had been on long-term loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum from its owners, the Courtauld Family, since 1985, until last year when a decision was made to sell it on. Following the auction, the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Integrity tipped off Vaizey, who rightly took a firm stand on protecting the work and slapped it with an export ban, encouraging a UK buyer to come forward and match the hefty £13.5million price tag and retain Cezanne's historical work on British soil and keep it where it's meant to be - in the public eye and for everyone.

The issue of art moving from public display into private hands has long been a problem in the art world and is rapidly increasing, with the trend for billionaires swooping up masterpieces as status symbols turning into an exclusive and exorbitant hobby: a billionaire boys club for trophy buying. Save for sedentary works such as Botticelli's Birth of Venus (Uffizi) and Matisse'sLa Bonheur de vivre (Barnes Foundation), which have been hugely protected from loan, let alone private sale, raises the question - why is it now feasible for a collector to be able to purchase a masterpiece such as Cezanne's? This isn't the first time that a master has been seized and held in England under the grounds of outstanding aesthetic importance: Cezanne's landscape of the Mediterranean is in the company of Raphael's The Head of A Young Apostle and Ruben's Portrait of a Young Woman.

With public funding for culture substantially slashed, and overseas buyers taking up the majority of the market, it's imperative that we hang on to these hugely influential works of art. Trophy art sales are beyond booming though, last year Christie's reported sales of over £5.1billion at auction, Sotheby's £4billion, and there's no sign of the market slowing down. With over one third of their buyers being first-timers, hell bent on acquiring work by the most historically recognisable masters.

Art being bought as a status symbol isn't anything new but with increasing wealth and decreasing funding for the arts it's become a discriminating hobby that take from the country's cultural legacy. Remember the feeling of first being confronted by a Caravaggio at the National Gallery, with no idea of the gravity, cost, status or the history behind it? Being paralysed by the sheer scale, drama and extreme realism? It's these artistic moments that can haunt and stay with us forever, and to deprive anyone of those feelings, from whatever his or her walk of life, whatever their art history knowledge or financial status, seems archaic.

Ed Vaizey
vue sur l’estaque et la chåteau d’if