Record £65 million of art enters public collections

A record-breaking £65 million worth of cultural objects have been bestowed to UK arts institutions under the acceptance in lieu scheme (AIL).

Under the scheme, taxpayers can transfer important works of art and heritage objects into public ownership in lieu of paying their inheritance tax bill. An AIL panel advises ministers on all objects offered under the scheme and their allocation to public museums, archives or libraries.

According to a report by Arts Council England, 2019/20 was a record year for the AIL scheme and its younger sister, the Cultural Gifts Scheme (CGS). The CGS allows donors to give works during their lifetime in return for a tax reduction. In total, the objects bestowed settled £40 million of tax.

Among the material received in 2019/20 is Camille Pissarro’s (1830-1903) ‘Soleil couchant dans notre pré’ (1887) (allocated to The National Gallery), a manuscript by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) ‘Avant et après’, which is the first to enter a UK public collection (allocated to The Courtauld Institute), and the entire archive of punk artist, Barney Bubbles (allocated to Liverpool John Moores University).

The benefactors of this year’s schemes are not limited to the big nationals in London. According to AIL Panel Chair, Edward Harley, two thirds of the allocations have been made to regional institutions as well as national museums in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. “The variety of objects remains as diverse as ever, and it is particularly exciting that the number of institutions receiving items through the scheme continues to grow”, Harley added.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has been permanently allocated Marc Chagall’s (1887-1985) gouache ‘L’Écuyère’ (1949-53), Édouard Manet’s (1832-83) ‘Portrait of Jules Dejouy’ (1879) has a new home in National Museum Wales, and six etchings by Rembrandt (1606-1669) now belong in the National Museums NI Ulster Museum.

In what has been a gloomy year for the arts, which have been battered by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arts Council England chair, Nicholas Serota, said the results of this year’s AIL and CGS schemes were a “cause for celebration”. He also reiterated the growing importance of the schemes in view of the dramatic effect of the pandemic on the cultural sector: “The next few years are going to be a challenging time for the cultural sector and private benefaction will be particularly important if our world-class museums, galleries, libraries and archives are to survive”.

Serota’s views were echoed by Harley, who believes national collections and the AIL and CGS schemes are going to become more important than ever. He believes “we are likely to see a shift away from big blockbuster touring shows and a refocus on the nation’s great public collections, celebrating and re-examining the many treasures we have been entrusted with over the years”.

For now, art-lovers will hopefully rejoice in the addition of several new treasures to the cultural collections that belong to them. Santa Claus has certainly delivered this year when the cultural sector needs it more than ever.

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