Provisions on the Management of the Import and Export of Fine Art

Ministry of Culture
Customs General Bureau

July 17, 2009

Interim Provisions on the Administration of the Import and Export of Art

In order to strengthen the administration of the import and export of art and the commercial exhibition of art works, to facilitate cultural exchanges between China and the world and to enrich people’s cultural life, the following provisions on the administration of the import and export of art are provided: 

    Article 1. The term “art” or “art work” as used in these Provisions refers to works of art with an aesthetic sense created by artists through use of line, color or other methods, and includes paintings, sculpture, photographs and [devices] and their permitted reproductions which are signed by the original artists in editions of less than 200.

            The term “art” or “art works” as used in these Provisions does not include mass-produced artistic handcrafts and cultural relics. 

              Article 2. The term “art import and export business activities“ as used in these Provisions refers to business activities of importing and exporting art work into and out of the territory of China.

        The term “foreign commercial exhibition activities” as used in these Provisions refers to any type of exhibition of foreign art or exhibition in which foreign artists participate, which are held in public exhibition sites in China for the purpose of sale or commercial promotion.

        For the export of art that has been imported into China or the import of  art that has been exported from China, the import-export entity may process the relevant procedures using the original approval certificate at the original import or export customs port without obtaining a new approval from the cultural administration. However, if the art to be imported or exported is not same as the art which is the subject of the original approval certificate, the import-export entity shall commence a new approval procedure. 

             Article 3. The term “art import and export entity” as used in these Provisions refers to an enterprise that is registered with the Ministry of Commerce and has an import and export certificate.

             Article 4. The State encourages the import and export of art that helps to spread culture and art worldwide and improve the mind, morality, culture and taste of the masses.

        The import and export of art  must comply with the relevant laws and regulations of China. Entities which import and export art  shall be guided, supervised and inspected by the cultural administration agencies to ensure that the imported and exported art works have legitimate sources.

        No entity or individual shall sell exhibit, display or disseminate imported works of art in any commercial form without the approval of the cultural administration agency. 

       Article 5. Art works are prohibited from being imported or exported if they contain content which:

  (1)     violates the basic principles of the Constitution of China;

  (2)     endangers  the unification of the country, national sovereignty or territorial integrity;

  (3)     divulges state secrets, endangers state security, honor or interests;

  (4)     incites ethnic hatred, discrimination, or harms ethnic unity or habits and customs;

  (5)     propagates or publicizes cults or superstitions;

  (6)     disrupts social order or stability;

  (7)     advocates or publicizes obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, horror, or instigates crime;

  (8)     libels, slanders or harms the legal interests of others;

  (9)     deliberately tampers with history or severely distorts history;

  (10)   harms public morals or ethnic cultural traditions; or

   (11)    other content prohibited by laws, regulations and rules. 

Article 6. The cultural administration agencies at the levels of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government, on behalf of the Ministry of Culture, are responsible for the approval of the import and export of art within their respective administrative territories, shall be legally responsible for the approvals, and shall be subject to supervision and guidance of the Ministry of Culture.

          Approvals by cultural administration agencies at the import and export customs ports at the level of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government shall be subject to the administration of the Ministry of Culture, and a quarterly report shall be recorded at the Ministry of Culture. 

Article 7  Entities importing or exporting art shall apply to the Ministry of Culture at the level of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government where the import and export ports are located, and must submit the following documents:

  (1)        the business license of the entity importing or exporting, and the import and export registration form filed with the Ministry of Commerce;

  (2)        the source, destination and use of the art work to be imported and/or exported;

  (3)        a list of the artists, a catalogue and introduction to the art works; and

  (4)        other documents required by the approval authority.

              The cultural administration entity shall renders its approval decision within 15 days after the acceptance of the application. An approval certificate shall be issued to the applicant together with a detailed list of the art work.  The applicant shall use the approval certificate to go through the necessary procedures at the customs bureau.  In the event the application is not approved, the cultural administration authority shall give a written notice to the applicant setting forth the reason for the disapproval. 

       Article 8. For any foreign commercial art exhibition in China, the entity holding exhibition must apply to the cultural administration agency at the level of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government not later than 45 days before the date of the exhibition (if the number of art works exceeds 120, an application must be directly made to the Ministry of Culture.), and the following documents must be submitted:

  (1)     the business certificate and the foreign trade record certificate of the host or organizing company; 

(2)      the plan of the exhibition;

  (3)        the contracts or agreements between the host company and related companies;

  (4)        the budget and source of funds;

  (5)        the agreement for the use of the exhibition site;

  (6)        introductions of the foreign artists participating in the exhibition and other participants;

  (7)        catalogue, pictures and descriptions of the foreign art work to be exhibited;

  (8)        Other materials required by the approval authorities.

              The cultural administration agency at the level of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government shall approve or disapprove an application within 20 days after the acceptance of the application for an exhibition.  The applicant shall use the approval certificate to go through the necessary procedures at the customs bureau. In the event the application is not approved, the cultural administration agency shall give a written notice to the applicant setting forth the reason for the disapproval. 

 Article 9. During the process of approval of art import and export and commercial foreign art exhibitions, the cultural administration agency at the level of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government at the import and export customs ports may, in case of any doubt on the contents of the art, seek re-approval from the Ministry of Culture.  The Ministry of Culture shall issue its re-approval opinion within 15 days after receipt of the application.  The time for re-approval shall not count toward the time limit for approval by the cultural administration agency at the levels of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government.

Article 10. The import and export of art for non-profit purposes such as research, educational exhibitions, museum collections and exhibitions for public welfare shall be made through the companies importing and exporting art and shall follow the import and export procedures set forth in Article 7 of these Provisions.  

           Individuals who carry or mail art works in or out of the territory of the country shall voluntarily make a declaration to Customs.  Article 7 of these Provisions shall be followed for any art work not for intended for personal use  or in excess of a reasonable number.

           If Customs is not able to determine the content or nature of the art carried or mailed by individuals in or out of the country, Customs may request the carrier or recipient to request an examination of the art and related materials from the cultural administration agency at the level of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, which shall render an opinion within 15 days after the acceptance of the above materials.  Customs shall determine whether to permit the import or export based on the opinion.  

 Article 11. Entities importing and exporting art shall not alter, add or delete the number, name or other materials regarding the art approved which has been for import or export.  A change shall be made only after a report has been filed with and approved by the approval authority. Any forgery, alteration, lending, borrowing, sale or transfer in any form other than that on the approval certificate issued by the cultural administration agency is strictly prohibited. 

 Article 12. Any import or export of art which is prohibited by the state, or any sale, exhibition, display or dissemination of art in other commercials form without the approval by the cultural administration agency shall be subject to rectification, warnings, confiscations, and/or a fine between RMB5,000 and RMB30,000 by the cultural administration agency at the county level or above. 

Article 13. Any alteration, increase or decrease of the number, name or other information regarding art which has been approved for import or export, and any forgery, alteration, loan, borrowing or sale or transfer of the approval certificate issued by the cultural administration agency shall be subject to warnings or revocation of the approval certificate, together with a fine between RMB2,000 and RMB10,000 by the cultural administration agency at the county level or above.        

Article 14. Any conduct in violation of these Provisions or Customs regulations which constitutes smuggling shall be subject to penalties under the PRC Customs Law and the Implementing Provisions of the PRC Customs Administrative Sanctions. Any conduct constituting a crime shall be subject to criminal penalties.         

Article 15. Cultural and customs administrative agencies shall issue a written decision of administrative penalties for any administrative penalty rendered under these Provisions. The penalized party may petition for administrative or judicial review if it refuses to accept the administrative penalties imposed by the cultural and customs decisions. The administrative authority which imposes the administrative penalties may seek enforcement of its decision through the People’s Court if the penalty party does not petition for administrative or judicial review within the statue of limitations.        

Article 16. These Provisions will apply to the import of art into China from, and export of art from China to, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Macau Special Administrative Region and Taiwan.   

Article 17. The administration of the import and export of art under these Provisions shall be interpreted by the Ministry of Culture, and any part relevant to the administration of Customs shall be interpreted by the General Administration of Customs.

Article 18. These Provisions take effect as of August 1, 2009.