Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Art row hits Royal Academy show

Portrait of the Infante Don Diego, son of King Philipp II of Spain (1575–1582), 1577. Oil on canvas; 108 x 88.2 cm. © Sammlungen des Fürsten von und zu Liechtenstein, Vaduz–Wien.
The painting is still barred from leaving the UK

A major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts has been scrapped because of an export row over a painting belonging to the Prince of Liechtenstein.

Paintings from the collection of Prince Hans-Adam II were to be shown at the Royal Academy next autumn.

But because of an unrelated dispute with HM Revenue and Customs over a painting by Sanchez Coello, the prince has decided to pull the exhibition.

The Royal Academy of Arts has said it is "very disappointed" at the decision.

The dispute centres around Spanish Renaissance painting The Infante Don Diego by Sanchez Coello, which was bought by the prince from a British collector through a London dealer in 2006.

In 2007, the UK authorities deferred a licence to export the work in order to allow time for an alternative buyer to raise the necessary funds to keep it in the country.

Export ban

HM Revenue and Customs also launched an investigation into the licence applications for the group of paintings that included the Coello.

An export licence will not be considered until the investigation is concluded. The painting was returned to the prince's collection last month, despite still being barred from leaving the UK.

Johann Kraftner, director of the Collections of the Prince of Liechtenstein, at the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna, said neither the prince nor the collection were in any way involved in the investigation.

He added: "The prince does not think it is appropriate to proceed with the planned exhibition until the matter of a painting by Sanchez Coello is resolved.

"When that happens we will reconsider the idea of a show at the Royal Academy at some future date."

Alternative show

In a statement, the Royal Academy of Arts said: "After many months of planning for next autumn's major Liechtenstein exhibition in the Royal Academy's Main Galleries, we are, of course, very disappointed that the Prince of Liechtenstein has decided to cancel the exhibition."

The Royal Academy is considering alternatives for next autumn, which will be announced early next year.

In 2008, the Royal Academy's exhibition From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings went ahead despite a row over the ownership of priceless artworks.

Assurances from the government that Russia would not lose disputed paintings ensured the exhibition went ahead.

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