Blackstone’s J. Tomilson Hill has refused a matching offer from the UK National Gallery to acquire Pontormo’s Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap. The decision puts the painting in a kind of limbo as the work is unlikely to receive and export license but will it be available for museum exhibition’s abroad?
The Art Newspaper explains why Hill won’t sell:
The problem is that Hill’s wealth is in dollars, and when the UK arts minister deferred an export licence in December 2015 the price was (as always) set in pounds. Since then sterling has slumped, mainly because of Brexit, and therefore a matching offer would mean a $10m loss for Hill. He argues that the National Gallery should make up this sum. […] Hill’s refusal to accept a matching offer now means that the Pontormo will almost certainly be refused a permanent export licence and will therefore need to be retained in the UK.
Update: Trying to second guess Hill’s strategy has become the parlor game of the day. The UK government isn’t really susceptible to a game of chicken here. Once the UK refuses to grant the painting an export license, the work becomes effectively unsalable. So there’s no reason—even in the unlikely case that the government would want to—to raise the offer or compensate Hill for the foreign exchange loss.
There’s also nothing stopping Hill from taking the £30m that has been offered and buying other works that would be exportable from the UK.
US hedge funder rejects National Gallery’s £30m offer to buy Pontormo portrait (The Art Newspaper)