Legislation of importance for the Commission on Export of Cultural Assets

A number of Danish Acts and orders have an impact on the work of the Commission on Export of Cultural Assets, including EU regulations and directives.

In 1987 Denmark passed a legislation to assure that cultural assets were not unlawfully exported out of the country. The purpose is to uphold the national cultural heritage by keeping important objects in Denmark.

Many countries in the world have adopted legislation to protect their cultural assets from export. The other Nordic countries introduced legislation in this area before Denmark, Sweden in 1927, Iceland in 1969 and Norway and Finland in 1978.

The event that provoked the making of a Danish Act on protection of cultural assets was an auction in London in 1976 where a number of unique paintings from the Danish Manor Gavnø were sold, among these a very famous painting and a priceless piece of Danish cultural history by the Danish painter Reinhold Timm. The painting, which dates to 1622, shows king Christian IV’s royal musicians. The Danish government collected DKK 5 million to acquire the painting, but too late. The paintings were presumably for ever lost to Denmark.

In 1982 the Ministry for Cultural Affairs set up a committee to advice and make proposals to assure that Danish cultural assets stay in Denmark. The work resulted in 1986 in an Act on protection of cultural assets in Denmark. The Act entered into force on January 1st 1987, and was elaborated upon in a supplementary executive order by the Ministry for Cultural Affairs (No. 404 from June 11th 1987). With the Museum Act No. 473 from June 7th 2001, section 5, subsection 1 of the Act on protection of cultural assets in Denmark was changed, thus making the Commission from January 1st 2002 consist of the director of the National Museum, the director of the National Gallery of Art, the director of the Royal Library, the National Archivist and a member appointed by the Minister for Culture among the leaders of non-governmental museums. The Act from 1986 was changed again in 2010. The amendment to the Act went into force on March 1st 2010. The amendment regards e.g. a change of the application of the Act. The Act on protection of cultural assets in Denmark and order are the foundation for the Commission’s work.

It is the Commission’s opinion that the existing legislation is and has been – even though it is not perfect from all points of view – important for the keeping of Danish cultural heritage of national importance for Denmark. The Commission finds that the Act has mainly worked according to its purpose and that there has been established a useful co-operation with the various trades that arrange the purchases and sales of cultural assets. A co-operation which is necessarily based on a relationship of trust between the involved parties.

The version of the Danish executive order no. 404 is not an official translation.