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Government Keeps Van Gogh Painting In Britain Temporarily

May 21, 1987

LONDON (AP) _ A Vincent van Gogh painting purchased by a Japanese firm for nearly $40 million must stay in Britain temporarily to give any British buyer time to match the offer, Arts Minister Richard Luce announced Wednesday.

Luce said he has deferred for six months a final decision on Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Co.’s application for an export license for the painting ″Sunflowers.″

But Press Association, Britain’s domestic news agency, reported that an unidentified Arts Ministry spokesman later said the export license would probably be granted after six weeks if no serious offer is made by then.

Under British law, works of art worth more than 8,000 pounds (about $13,400) need an export license. The arts minister can refuse a license to a foreign buyer if a Briton matches the sale price.

The National Gallery already has a version of the dazzling yellow ″Sunflowers,″ bought by the Japanese insurance firm for a record 24.75 million pounds ($39.85 million) at Christie’s Auction House in March.

″So even if we had the money we would not want it,″ a gallery spokesman said Wednesday.

The Tate Gallery has an annual purchasing budget of less than 2 million pounds ($3.3 million) and therefore won’t be in the bidding.

Multimillionaire John Paul Getty Jr., who has donated millions to save other works of art for Britain, said Wednesday: ″Anyone putting up 25 million pounds for the picture is simply trying to buy international prestige and is out of his mind. I would not be party to it.″

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