Britain halts export of $48 million Turner painting

Wed Nov 3, 2010 6:52pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Britain has temporarily halted the export of a record-breaking painting by English master J.M.W. Turner which was sold at auction in July for 29.7 million pounds ($48 million).

"Modern Rome -- Campo Vaccino" went under the hammer at Sotheby's in London and set an auction record for the artist. The 1839 landscape was Turner's last painting of Rome.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey announced the decision on Wednesday, and gave individuals and organizations until February 2, 2011 to demonstrate serious intent to keep the masterpiece in the country by meeting its market value.

If it appears to be a real possibility that the funds can be raised, the deadline will be extended to August 2 next year, he said in a statement.

His decision follows a recommendation from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

"If one needed evidence of Turner's greatness as an artist, this is it," said Lord Inglewood, chairman of the Reviewing Committee.

"'Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino' is an astonishingly beautiful painting that underlines Turner's thoughts and experiences of Rome, and in turn it has played a fundamental part in forming our perception of Turner and his work."

The J. Paul Getty Trust, which bought the painting, said it had expected the Turner's export to be delayed.

"We greatly respect the export process in the UK and look forward to the possibility of having this masterpiece in our collection," said David Bomford, acting director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

"When joined with the other works by Turner in the Los Angeles area, this painting will give visitors to Southern California an opportunity to see the entire range of work by one of Britain's greatest painters."

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Jill Serjeant)