Italy's Ministry of Culture
The Ministry of Culture in Italy is headquartered in The Roman College in Rome. Image credit: Kaga Tau via Wikimedia Commons.

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The changes were made last year, via the Italian ministry of culture, but now the art market has begun to test the new system with more Italian auction houses offering art online.

Until last year, Italian law would only permit the export of works of living artists or those who died less than 50 years ago. Older pictures, regardless of value, required an export licence.

In 2017, a reform extended the ‘deceased artist clause’ to 70 years and also introduced a value threshold of €13,500 below which art and antiques could move freely. It came into effect in the autumn of 2020.

Rudy Capildeo, partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said: “Italy is inevitably protective over its deep and rich cultural patrimony, being a country that sits on centuries worth of accumulated artefacts of world-renowned artistic and cultural value.

“It has policed and battled for decades to stem the illegal export of artistic and cultural artefacts from it s borders. However, this has severely hampered Italy’s standing in the international art market as a pro-trade destination.

“There have long been calls for their strict export laws to be relaxed and these amendments are a small step in that direction giving more freedom to the lower end of the market, allowing its dealers and citizens greater participation in the international market.”

Italy’s changes have not gone as far as France, which made a number of amendments in January this year following years of consultation. Among the changes is the doubling of the value threshold for paintings more than 50 years old to €300,000 (from €150,000) (as reported in ATG No 2478).

Capildeo added: “While this change will hopefully result in greater revenues and a wider international audience for Italy’s art market, much more is required to make Italy a serious challenger to France’s positioning as the EU’s new art market powerhouse post Brexit.

“To keep ahead of the chasing pack France made much more radical reforms to its export system. It will be interesting to see if other key markets of the EU, such as Spain, begin to follow Italy and France’s lead.”

French online auction platform Drouot Digital has started to notice a change for Italian auction houses.

Antoine de Rochefort, CEO of Drouot Digital, said: “Many Italian auctions are now listed on various online marketplaces seeking to appeal to an international audience.”

For instance, Drouot currently has listings from 20 Italian auction houses, including Finarte, Bertolami, Cambi and Capitolium art.