Australia

Australian Snack Bar painting ruled too important to send to UK

Australian artist Hebert Badham's 1944 painting Snack Bar Image copyright Deutscher and Hackett
Image caption Australian artist Hebert Badham's 1944 painting Snack Bar

A wartime painting set in Sydney's seedy Kings Cross has been blocked from being exported to England because of its national significance.

The 1944 work Snack Bar by Australian artist Herbert Badham shows US soldiers and locals at a 24-hour eatery.

Crucially, it shows a black American GI with a female civilian.

An arts committee ruled that the painting's new owner, who wanted to hang it in his London home, cannot remove it from Australia.

Will Gompertz: Right decision, wrong reason

The owner bought the painting at an auction in Melbourne last year for A$465,000 (£265,000; $350,000).

Snack Bar was not expected to sell for as much as it did - estimates before the May 2015 auction were for between A$90,000 and A$120,000 (£51,100 and £68,100).

After initial permission to export the painting was blocked, the owner took his case to an appeals tribunal, where art experts debated the merits of the work.

In its judgement, the tribunal found that the painting showed a critical stage in Australia's history - during wartime and its development as a multicultural nation.

"The subject matter, which graphically records the interaction of different races, associating in congenial circumstances at a time of great danger for Australia is deeply impressive," it said.

The experts, however, were not convinced about Badham's importance to Australian art.

David Hansen, of the Australian National University, was reported to have told the appeals tribunal that the high price Snack Bar fetched was not because Badham was considered a "major figure" in the country's art world.

But rather, it was as a result of the Sydney painter having a "moment in the sun", which started with the sale of his 1933 work Travellers for A$732,000 (£416,238) in 2013, The Australian reported.

Related Topics