The splitting up or "selling off" of collections of art, cultural artefacts, knowledge and information happens for many reasons. The most common is financial, either because the cost of housing and maintenance is too great, or the money to be made from whole or partial sale is needed, say for settlement of an estate on the death of the collector. Public and private collections are at risk.
Experts estimate that between 50 and 75% of the EEC/EU's art trade and between 85 and 90% of its antiquities business now takes place in London, a market said to be worth around $5 billion a year. Countries like Italy, Spain and Greece, which have already lost many national treasures to museums in northern Europe and the USA, believe strict domestic legislation is necessary to protect what remains. However, it is argued that excessive controls are counterproductive because they stimulate a black market.