Danish Cultural Assets

Danish cultural assets are protected against export
The Danish protection act

Rare works of art, objects of importance to cultural history, books, manuscripts, documents and the like may no longer be taken out of Denmark without permission. This is decreed in an Act covering the protection of cultural assets which came into force on January 1st 1987. The direct purpose of the Act is to ensure that objects of cultural value remain within the borders of Denmark. It is an important supplement to other regulations which protect our national heritage, for example the rules applicable to ‘treasure trove’.

How are cultural assets defined?

Permission must be obtained in order to export:

  • Cultural objects from the period before 1660
  • Cultural objects older than a 50 years and valued at DKK 163,000 or more
  • Photographs (regardless of age) if they have a value of DKK 30,000 or more.

The amount DDK 163.000 will be adjusted on an annual basis. The Ministry of Culture will publish the adjustment.
In exceptional cases the Minister for Culture can decide that the Act is also applicable to other objects of cultural interest. This is covered by § 2 (4) of the Cultural Assets Act, which is worded as follows:
‘Subsection 4. On the recommendation of the Cultural Assets Commission, cf. Section 5, the Minister for Culture may decide that the Act be applied to a cultural object not covered by the Act, where special circumstances require this.’
If an application or an export licence is refused, the State must offer to buy the object at market price, though without having any right of pre-emption on this account.
Coins and medals are the only cultural objects explicitly exempted from the regulations of the Act.

Who grants permission

A commission of five persons, the Commission on Export of Cultural Assets, decides whether an export licence is to be granted or not.

Auction sales

The Commission on Export of Cultural Assets has made an agreement with certain auction houses about a special procedure. Prior to the auction the Commission will go through the catalogue and if necessary inspect relevant items. On the basis of this inspection the Commission will then advise the auctioneer in writing as to which items will require the Commission’s permission in the event of the buyer wishing to take them out of Denmark after the auction.
In such cases the auctioneer will be under an obligation to keep the relevant items in custody until an export licence has been granted.

Contravention of the law

Contravention of the protection regulations contained in the Cultural Assets Act will be punishable by a fine or imprisonment for a period up to one year.