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Irma Stern artwork denied permit

2011-10-27 08:46
 
Johannesburg – The Qatar museum authority knowingly bought Irma Stern’s painting entitled Arabian Priest despite the fact that both the museum and the British auctioneer were aware that the South African Resource Heritage Agency (Sahra) had not yet granted a permanent export permit.

Bonhams sold the painting to Qatar  in London in March for a record price of R39m.

According to Regina Isaacs of Sahra, the artwork was on loan to Bonhams after the auction house was granted a temporary export permit.

"The artwork was lent to Bonhams in December and then returned to South Africa a month later where it has been ever since.

"Bonhams (...) Sahra however, only realised the painting had been sold when we received the application for the permanent export permit from the Qatar museum authority."

It was however stipulated in Bonhams' catalogue that the buyer will have to obtain an export permit from Sahra first.

First appeal

According to the law on National Heritage, artworks of national interest older than 50 years are not allowed to leave the country unless a permit from Sahra is obtained.

Sahra has denied the permanent export permit. The Qatar museum authority has since hired attorney Pieter Fouché of Van Huyssteens commercial attorneys to appeal Sahra's decision.

"This is the first appeal against a decision taken by Sahra," said Isaacs.

"This is also the first time, as far as Sahra knows, that a local artwork had been sold to an international museum."

Concern over South Africa's art treasures leaving the country illegally has grown rapidly in the last few years.

Director of the Rupert museum in Stellenbosch, Deon Herselman, said that the effort to control the movement of artworks is improving.

"Although British auction houses serve as a good export point and provide a good platform for our artists, it is important that all works are approved by Sahra first."

 

Read more on:    irma stern  |  art
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