On November 20, 2013, Sotheby’s will auction a spectacular landscape by the Mexican master Dr. Atl. But no one attending the sale in Manhattan will actually get to see the painting.  That’s because Mexico prohibits export of Atl’s work as a vital part of its national patrimony. 

“This painting is part of the National Heritage of Mexico and cannot be permanently exported from the country. Accordingly, it is offered for sale in New York from the catalogue and will not be available in New York for inspection or delivery. The painting will be released to the purchaser in Mexico in compliance with all local requirements. Prospective buyers may contact Sotheby’s representatives in Mexico City and Monterrey for an appointment to view the work.”

I was honored to have a short article printed in the October 2013 edition of the International Society of Appraisers’ Education Newsletter.  The issue focused on the challenge of international regulations controlling the export of works of art.  As former head of Latin American Art for Sotheby’s,  it’s a question that I used to face on a daily basis.  It can be a challenge appraisers often have to grapple with when attempting to determine a value for works produced in or imported from another country.  And it’s one collectors are often unaware of until they try to sell their collections. 

If you collect international art and artifacts—or for that matter, any objet d’art produced from rare or restricted materials like ivory, tortoise shell , exotic animals skins or feathers—it’s worth taking some time to familiarize yourself with the basic rules that govern their export and sale.  An experienced appraiser or auctioneer should be fairly well versed in these matters, and will be happy to share their knowledge with a curious collector seeking information.