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São Paulo museum wins court fight against Brazilian airport’s steep cargo fees on Tate Modern loans

The Museu de Arte de São Paulo (Masp) successfully argued in court to reverse a steep cargo tariff charged by Campinas International Airport on six works of art lent by Tate in London for the current exhibition Acervo em Transformação (Archive in Transformation, until 16 February 2019). Other cultural organisations hit by similar fees have raised concerns that they could hamper future projects and the ministry of culture has stepped in, promising to issue clearer guidelines.

In a new interpretation of the existing rules, the Campinas airport attempted to charge the museum 243,000 reais ($66,000) per day to store six paintings—Dorelia in a Black Dress (1903-4) by Gwen John, Coming Out of School (1927) by L.S. Lowry, The Bride (1949) by Sylvia Sleigh, Seated Figure (1961) by Francis Bacon, They Always Appear by Ibrahim El-Salahi (1964), and Head of a Man (1965) by F. N. Souza—based on their market value because they were deemed “import cargo of high specific value”. The museum avoided the charge after a court ruled that the works were of a “civic-cultural nature”, which falls under a lower tariff bracket based on the objects’ weight. Masp ultimately paid 0.15 reias per kilo for each work or 130 reais ($35) total for each day of storage.

The Aeroportos Brasil Viracopos, which manages the Campinas airport, denounced the court’s decision, writing in a statement that “events, such as exhibitions of works of art, for example, cannot be qualified as ‘cultural civic’, since they are for-profit and there is a charge for the population to visit the space”.