Monday, 18 May 2015

Bull in a China Shop: UKRG Blog Post in response to Bristol Museums, Galleries, and Archive’s Cups & Angel Wings presentation, written by Sivan Amar

My name is Sivan Amar and I am the Registrar & Production Manager at Tate Liverpool.  I was very fortunate enough to have been awarded the bursary in order to attend this fantastic UKRG event, “Let’s Put on a Show!” held in gorgeous Bristol at the M-Shed museum on 12 May.

I’ve been asked to write a post in response to Kate Newnham’s, Curator of Eastern Art and Culture at Bristol’s Museums, Galleries and Archives, presentation entitled “Porcelain coffee cups and glass angel wings – Shipping ‘Ahead of the Curve: New china from China’”.  The talk was aimed at presenting the numerous logistical challenges of planning an international exhibition of this scope.  The exhibition began as a 4 – 5 year project to be toured to four venues, three in the UK and one in China (Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery at Stoke-on-Trent, The Wilson at Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, and Two Cities Gallery in Shaghai).  Ms. Newnham focused on topics: developing funding bids, customs and transport logistics, working from different cultures, and a set of top tips.

It seemed that the funding bid took the longest time to develop from 2011 – February 2013.  Once the partnership was finally awarded almost £108,000 in grants from the Art Fund and British Council, the partners had a mere 6 months to proceed with all the other logistics of planning a worldwide exhibition.  Quite a daunting task for newcomers to the field of logistics planning!  (Surprisingly the exhibition was coordinated without a Registrar!) 

The team found out things in a sort of “chicken vs. egg” progression, not exactly knowing where to start nor what should come first.  Several challenges cropped up in this preliminary logistics stage, all of which are familiar to well-seasoned Registrars:  the checklist took a long time to confirm as there were quite a few living Chinese artists who kept changing their minds or lost the promised artwork, or even gave the work away as a gift; the language barrier didn’t help anyone; difficulties of working in with the Chinese government; and internal challenges such as restructuring of all three UK galleries due to government funding cuts, a co-curator having gone freelance, and of course, personal events such as marriages, babies, holidays (it’s always that last category that we all never tend to factor in!)

All things considered, I would have thought that the most frustrating challenge would have been with the Chinese government.  I could imagine that a country of so many types of restrictions would not prove helpful when coming to exporting goods overseas.  Crown Fine Art Shippers advised that they would need to apply for ATA carnet licenses for temporary export of the porcelains, enabling export for up to 12 months with return to China within that time.  Unfortunately, a requirement of this license is to pay a deposit of 1/3 of the value of the goods to Chinese customs prior to export…in cash!  The team obviously had to scramble to get this cash (as anyone would!), but were very fortunate in that the Bristol local authority lent the cash to see the exports through. 

The team’s next hurdle was deciding on UKGI or commercial insurance.  Though Ms. Newnham stated that the Arts Council team is helpful, like most government bodies, they require time and plenty of information to process a non-national institution’s application for coverage.  Additionally, the National Security Advisor had suggested that a courier accompany the shipping from China in order to ensure safe transport.  This was something the partners could not afford as they had chosen to ship via seafreight.  Therefore, the partners opted for maritime insurance with an efficient and tight timetable from the Chinese shippers Yang Ming.  The sea route aboard the ship Ubiquity travelled from Shanghai -> Sri Lanka -> Somalia (no pirates!) -> Mediterranean -> Felix Stowe, UK -> road transfer to Oxfordshire to Crown UK depot. 

Though condition reporting done in China was not to UK standards, there was sufficient photographic evidence for the team and conservators to monitor artwork safety upon unpacking in Cheltenham…with some loo paper thrown in the mix!  However, some of the crates came packed with beautiful silk lining (sorry Ms. Newnham, I don’t think this is something everyone can afford to do all the time!)

The exhibition was a success in Cheltanham and Bristol and continues to impress at each successive venue. 

The next challenge will be importing to China, with another lengthy sea freight trip back home.  Additionally, Ms. Newnham mentioned that Bristol would like to acquire several of the pieces to add to their renowned glass and pottery collection.  The question for the Registrars in attendance was how Bristol can acquire the works without having to forfeit the ATA carnet deposit to the Chinese government.  Can they keep the works in the UK under their NIRU?  Can they avoid paying import tax? 

I myself very recently (and painfully) came across this issue and was able to resolve quite easily with the advise of my shippers.  Because Bristol is a non-profit institution, they are eligible to have VAT waived on expenses.  Therefore, Bristol will have to pay the VAT import tax upfront, however once that invoice is issued the shipper will also automatically issue at C-79 certificate which can be submitted to HMRC to reclaim VAT on this import.  The shippers, Bristol financial department, and/or HMRC can certainly advise further on this point.  If those pieces Bristol want to acquire are returning to China for the rest of the tour, they will close out the existing NIRU and receive the full deposit back from Chinese customs, but they’ll have to ship the works again.  Either way, they are going to have additional costs.  Perhaps these can be covered by the acquisition funding?

As I had mentioned earlier, I was very surprised and a bit upset that a Registrar did not oversee a project of this scope.  I spoke with Ms. Newnham after her presentation, who stated that the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery does have a Registrar but due to her workload she was unable to work on this exhibition.  What upset me about this was that the job of a Registrar was in this case delegated to a curator.  Though the team successfully handled the project, it might have gone smoother had an expert been appointed to deal with the issues they came across.  When Ms. Newnham talked about the funding bid and finalizing budgets for the project, I wonder if a freelance Registrar could have been factored in?  This might have been thought of at the time but then had to be budgeted out, however I cannot stress the importance of a Registrar as expert in shipping, logistics, contractual, insurance, and art handling matters.  With the task of return shipping back to China, I would recommend a Registrar be employed for the job to ensure all documents, etc are in order (I absolutely fell in love with Bristol, so I’m happy to sign up for the job!).

Friday, 15 May 2015

#UKRGMShed: ‘NIRU: Museums & Galleries Relief Update’

Tim Gordon, CSDR and ToR Policy Advisor from HMRC, gave an update on the proposed changes that will be coming to Museums & Galleries Relief in 2015.

He explained that the draft of Notice 361 will soon be circulated within HMRC and will then be circulated more widely for consultation with current users of the Relief and their partners such as third-party agents, transporters and logistics specialists.  Tim very much encouraged us all to take part in this process (which should start in August) so that they can ensure it will be easy for us to adapt to.

Tim highlighted some of the changes that will be coming into effect, the main one being the introduction of an Annual Return from Approval Holders to NIRU. For this, accurate record-keeping will be vital, particularly with regards to the Customs Status of items which have been subject to this relief – where are they now, etc. NIRU will be working with us on all of this to ensure that the record keeping that we do throughout the year will easily provide the Annual Return to show this.

The wording of the Notice has also been changed to comply with the readability standards which the government has introduced. In essence, the Notice has had to be rewritten to make it clearer and compatible with a reading /writing age of 12.

A new Export Customs Procedure Code (CPC) is being introduced for items only held under the Relief so that when we want to return or send on items, this new CPC can be used which is specifically designed for dispatching items out of Museums & Galleries Relief. Testing of this will start soon and it will then go live later in the year.

The T5 issue that had been highlighted in an earlier talk by Momart was also discussed – Tim said that talks are happening to find a resolution with France and Brussels. In Notice 361, NIRU will be the Central Office for T5 imports and exports.

NB HMRC no longer have their own website, they are part of the website instead. If you cannot find any guidance or help that you need, please contact Tim:

 Claire Cooper, Documentation Officer, Leicester Arts and Museums Service.

#UKRGMShed: ‘What a saga! Bringing Viking Voyagers to Cornwall’

You might expect to find a family-friendly exhibition showcasing Viking treasures borrowed from Europe’s national museums in major metropolitan museums. But Tehmina Goskar gave an insightful overview of the challenges and opportunities involved in putting on such a show at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, a non-national museum in the Cornish port town of Falmouth. With a stunning waterfront location and the National Small Boat collection to showcase, the museum has made a name for itself as “Britain’s most family friendly museum.”

Tehmina described how the ambitious Viking Voyagers exhibition built on the museum’s existing strengths whilst encouraging the museum to work to even higher standards to ensure that ancient objects borrowed from institutions including the British Museum, Manx National Heritage and the National Museums of Ireland and Denmark received necessary care and security.

Tehmina led us through particular challenges: the key themes that emerged were the value of partnership working and the need for open and clear communication, meticulous planning and investment in infrastructure.

She outlined how, following an assessment by the National Security Advisor, she was able to draw on advice from registrars at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and Tate St Ives, which the museum used to update its buildings and procedures, most notably installing high-definition colour CCTV. The assessment also enabled her to advocate for the museum to update its environmental monitoring systems and she emphasised the universal usefulness of good environmental data.

Indeed, Tehmina described how preparations for the exhibition occasioned a culture change, as she worked to ensure that her colleagues understood nd supported the need to meet lenders’ conditions and also that lenders understood a little about Cornwall and the museum. The exhibition also occasioned a valuable collaboration with the British Museum: Dr Gareth Williams was not only a guest curator but also appeared in Viking dress in exhibition publicity!

Good communication and partnership working enabled the museum to tackle daunting challenges: from ensuring that the cases they invested in met all stakeholders’ requirements and that crated objects would fit in their storage space to navigating the potential minefield of insurance. She vividly described her negotiations with the National Museum of Denmark, who were unable to accept UK Government Indemnity. The museum judiciously drew on the experience of a professional mount maker and an experienced transport agent to supplement their in-house expertise. Successful internal advocacy enabled Tehmina to ensure that there was someone on site to receive late-night deliveries and that the installation site was kept free from other works. Indeed, the gallery has provided an opportunity to engage volunteers in both invigilating the exhibition and engaging visitors in discussions about the amazing borrowed objects.

This was a fascinating case-study of not only how a modest-scale museum can mount a blockbuster style exhibition, but also how such an exhibition can drive culture change and infrastructure investment.

Susannah Darby, Collections Information Officer, Science Museum

Thursday, 14 May 2015

#UGRGMShed ‘Work together to strut your stuff’: An exhibition game for audience participation

For the final session at the UKRG event ‘Let’s Put On a Show! : Exhibition Essentials’, Nickos Gogolos, Registrar at The V&A, was invited to lead an interactive group session. To facilitate this, delegates were split into small groups, through random allocation given on their name badges at the beginning of the event.

We were then given two different touring exhibition scenarios, with three groups working on each of these. Within our groups, we had to discuss the problems we would face and possible solutions and outcomes.
The scenarios themselves were complex, including multiple venues, large numbers of objects and various access and environmental considerations. In my group, the basis of our given scenario was an exhibition from a National Museum in London which was to go on tour. These 70 objects were to go to a local authority museum, and then to a National Trust Property with both venues being charged an exhibition fee.

We discussed the various points, though the discussion was a little slow to get going at the beginning people soon got into the flow! We talked about the exhibition fee and what we would expect this to include (we were hoping for transport, interpretation and expertise), the variety of objects and the lack of cases and staff at the local authority museum. There were also unknown quantities which we would need more information on in order to come to any decisions. With only 20 minutes, we raised far more questions than we could answer, but were able to begin thinking about some of the solutions, such as borrowing cases from the national museum.

Nikos then asked for our ideas and solutions, one scenario at a time.  Many questions were fired at him, which he answered sometimes teasingly with a bit more information to keep us thinking and questioning, and sometimes to great amusement at the types of issues we all have to deal with!

Some of the points discussed were;  the differing environmental standards in National Trust properties to those in museums, whether object numbers could be reduced in smaller venues or if they came as a package, whether the National museum could assist with mounting costumes, the length of timescales, sponsorship for display cases and whether installation could take place during opening hours.

This was a good opportunity to hear views from those in different institutions and from varying roles. The discussion felt quite short at the time, with the whole session taking only an hour, and I felt I wanted more time to hear everyone’s ideas, but in hindsight, I feel it left us with lots to go away and think about.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

#UKRGMShed Customs Matters: Exhibitions Essentials

Steve Gourley, Business Process and Compliance Manager at Momart Ltd, gave us a brief insight into the world of exhibitions-related customs this morning at MShed in Bristol:

General Information

  • The Customs Status indicates whether import Duties and Taxes have been paid for Community Goods (free circulation, union goods, T2) or Non-Community Goods (Not in free circulation, non-union goods, T1).
  • The Commodity Code tells Customs what the goods are, e.g. 9701 1000 00 is paintings, drawings and pastels.
  • The Customs Procedure Code (CPC) tells Customs what we want to do with the goods, e.g. 40 00 200 is permanent import and pay 5% import VAT.

UK Exhibitions – Borrowing

  • NIRU Museums and Galleries Relief
    • Importers must be approved by NIRU which is valid for 3 years via an approval letter which must accompany every import customs entry when claiming relief.
    • Duty Relief applies for exhibits that are not for sale, dispatched directly, where items are used exclusively as exhibits and detailed records are kept.
    • VAT Relief is then granted as long as the exhibits have been donated free of charge or if they are bought from a private individual.
    • If objects are to stay in the UK, NIRU must approve if they are transferred to another NIRU institution or are diverted to home use with the importer paying VAT.
    • If objects are to leave the UK, where they are re-exported from the EU a full export Customs entry is required, CPC code 10 00 001 and they may require a UK or EU export licence. If they are transferred within the EU they may require a UK export licence and Customs form T5 must be used, although be warned as some EU countries don't accept T5.
  • Temporary Admission (TA)
    • To be eligible for Duty and VAT relief, objects must be imported for a specific use or reason, with the intention of being re-exported or removed from TA within the time limit given and not be altered when imported.
    • Security must be provided to cover the potential Duty and/or VAT charges due. This can be in the form of a cash deposit, Deed of Guarantee or as a holder of a full TA authorisation.
    • Where objects are to stay in the UK they can be either transferred to a Customs 'Bonded' Warehouse or to another TA authorisation holder.
    • If objects are to leave the UK, where they are re-exported from the EU a full customs entry is required, CPC code 31 53 000 but no export is required. If they are transferred within the EU the community transit declaration T1 is required but once again no export licence.

Overseas Exhibitions – Lending

  • Temporary Export and Return Goods Relief (RGR) applies for objects that are Community Goods in Free Circulation. A Full Customs entry is required, the owner declared on entry and CPC code 23 00 000. A UK or EU export licence may be required and an INF3 if returning to another EU country.

Well, what a lot to take in! I think this just goes to show how hard our transport agents work. Thank you to Steve for concisely summarising exhibitions-related customs.

Nadine Loach
Exhibition and Display Coordinator, Dulwich Picture Gallery