Why Becoming a National Treasure Can Lower an Artwork’s Value
Art Business

Why Becoming a National Treasure Can Lower an Artwork’s Value

While Andy Warhol believed that “in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” the artist retains his fame today almost 30 years after his death. Warhol is, in fact, so relevant to contemporary culture that despite being a thoroughly American artist, laws in other countries increasingly categorize works by the artist as cultural property subject to export restrictions and limitations on sale. Originally designed to protect antiquities and Old Masters , these rules and regulations are starting to ensnare art made in the 20th century. Because they restrain trade, these laws lower the value of art that must remain in the local country, while providing no mechanism for the owner to be compensated for their loss. They also create incentives for owners to get their 20th-century art out of the country before it becomes subject to the rules. Italy and Germany provide good examples through which to understand the perverse impact of cultural property laws on the marketplace for 20th-century art. In Italy, the land many believe invented bureaucracy, fine art export rules do not disappoint. The first comprehensive Italian cultural heritage law was passed by the Italian parliament in 1909; it was recently updated in 2017. […]

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