Sunday, April 21, 2024

“the works of Flavin and Viola should be treated as sculpture at the time of importation”

What happens when custom agents declare that a sculpture piece or an art installation is not art, but rather either a conglomeration of individual hardware parts or lacking in three dimensionality?

The major problem for commercial galleries when importing contemporary art works into the UK is that there is currently no general custom category for art works under EU custom law. While there is a general custom chapter headed ‘works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques’, known as Chapter 97, in order to fall within this the imported art work must fit within a certain sub-category: ‘painting’, ‘print’ or ‘sculpture’. The absence of a residual category for artistic works (similarly to the absence of such a category under UK copyright law’s definition of ‘artistic works’) within this traditional classificatory structure presents potential difficulties for contemporary work such as conceptual art and installations.

To find out how the VAT and Duties Tribunal (London) held regarding several video installations by Bill Viola and a light piece by Dan Flavin, read Frieze Magazine’s interesting article regarding this specific issue.


Tags: , , ,


No comments so far.
  • Leave a Reply
    Your gravatar
    Your Name


Clancco, Clancco: The Source for Art & Law,, and Art & Law are trademarks owned by Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento. The views expressed on this site are those of Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento and of the artists and writers who submit to They are not the views of any other organization, legal or otherwise. All content contained on or made available through is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed, nor is anything submitted to treated as confidential.

Website Terms of Use, Privacy, and Applicable Law.

Switch to our mobile site