My Work in Progress on Increased Scrutiny of Good Faith

I’ve posted on SSRN a work in progress, Fraud on Our Heritage: Towards a Rigorous Standard for the Good Faith Acquisition of Antiquities. I attempt to make a case for heightened standards for good faith, particularly in the context of museums and antiquities. I would be delighted to hear any thoughts/reactions to the piece. Here is the abstract:

If a family of art forgers living in modest public housing in Bolton, England can easily fool some of the World’s leading cultural institutions, then surely the current state of the antiquities market must be badly broken. Ideally a diligent enquiry before a purchase confers good faith status, allows purchasers to acquire good title, and gives the legal right to seek compensation from an unscrupulous seller. Despite these important advantages, good faith has been used merely to promote commercial convenience and economic efficiency. This article proposes a new theoretical foundation for increased scrutiny of the antiquities trade by constructing a broad basis for the recognition of good faith as a mechanism for eliminating the illicit trade in antiquities.

Though an existing body of law prohibits and punishes a variety of activities which further the illicit trade, these measures are severely hampered by the mystery surrounding antiquities transactions. With increased scrutiny and a more rigorous and diligent analysis, these legal measures will become far more effective. At present, details regarding authenticity, title, or even more basic questions such as the origin of an object are intentionally hidden and disguised from public view. When an object is acquired without a rigorous due diligence process, that acquisition defrauds our heritage by distorting the archaeological record; harms the legitimate acquisition of antiquities; perverts the important role museums play in society; and ultimately warps the understanding of our common cultural heritage.

Consequently, this article proposes a theoretical underpinning for a new and rigorous standard for the acquisition of art and antiquities. In so doing, it develops a theory which can successfully navigate the secrecy surrounding the trade and acquisition of antiquities. It concludes by offering a critique of the recent attempts by law and economics scholars to analyze the antiquities trade and concludes that they may offer some useful policy models so long as they account for the preservation of heritage and context in their “efficiency” models.

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Student Comment on American Cultural Heritage Law

Katherine D. Vitale has posted on SSRN her Student Comment, The War on Antiquities: United States Law and Foreign Cultural Property, 84 Notre Dame L. R. 101 (2009). 

She criticizes the general trend of American cultural heritage policy, and is far too kind I think to museums and antiquities dealers generally.  She has some very interesting things to say about the AAMD Guidelines, and does a very good job putting the recent California searches in context, perhaps helping to explain why a year has elapsed with little apparent progress.  

From the Abstract:

The use of the National Stolen Property Act and Archaeological Resources Protection Act as mechanisms to protect cultural property taken from a foreign state through prosecution of individuals who buy, sell, and otherwise deal in such property is in direct tension with the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (“CPIA”), a statute enacted in accordance with an international treaty to which the United States is a party. This Note explores how criminal liability under United States law for museum officials and others who acquire art, archaeological materials, and especially antiquities, originating in foreign nations conflicts with CPIA’s treatment of foreign cultural property. Part I discusses the principle of protection of cultural property in international law and the manifestation of this principle in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (“1970 UNESCO Convention”). Part II examines the 1970 UNESCO Convention’s influence on United States civil law and policy regarding foreign cultural property, and on the acquisitions policies of international and domestic museums. Part III discusses criminal penalties under both the National Stolen Property Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act for those who knowingly acquire stolen foreign cultural property. Part IV analyzes the conflict between policies on foreign cultural property followed by the United States and domestic museums and the application of criminal penalties in art-trafficking cases. In addition, this Part explores the consequences of the conflict for both the United States and individuals, and suggests resolutions to the conflict through law. Finally, Part V concludes that in order for the United States to fulfill its obligation under the 1970 UNESCO Convention, it must stop conducting a war on antiquities-and those who acquire them.

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"The sea is a vast museum of shipwrecks"

So says Texas A&M University’s Prof. Shelley Wachsmann in a very good ABC (Australia) piece on the dangers facing underwater heritage sites in Greece, and a new Greek law which may open Greece’s coastline to increased diving.

Greece’s 1932 antiquities law says all artefacts on land and in the sea belong to the state, but it does not regulate scuba diving, . . .
A new law implemented in 2007 and designed to promote tourism opens most of Greece’s 15,000km coastline to scuba divers, except for about 100 known archaeological sites.
Greece’s archaeologists’ union and two ecological societies have appealed for the law to be rescinded.
Meanwhile, some tour companies are luring tourists with the promise of ancient artefacts.
“Scuba diving in Greece is permitted everywhere … Ideal for today’s treasure hunter,” says the website
The director of antiquities at the Culture Ministry, Katerina Dellaporta, says metal detectors and bathyspheres allow treasure hunters to find artefacts with ease in the Adriatic and Aegean.
“It’s good to have tourism, but we must protect antiquities,” she said.
“Not every diver is an illegal trafficker… but we need to ensure these treasures remain for future generations.” . . . 

Most of the world-famous bronzes in Greece’s National Archaeological Museum, such as the 5th-century BC statue of Poseidon hurling his trident found off Cape Artemision, were salvaged from the sea.
Statues on land tended to be destroyed or melted down for coins or weapons.

Some were found in shallow-water shipwrecks like the one off Antikythera, believed to be a 1st century BC Roman ship carrying a haul of ancient Greek art back to Italy.

Other precious statues were dredged from the deep ocean in fishermen’s nets.
Greece offers handsome rewards to prevent relics falling into private hands.
It paid 440,000 euros ($872,000) to a fisherman for a female torso off the island of Kalymnos in 2005.
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French judge Denies China’s Claim for Summer Palace Bronzes

A french judge on Monday denied China’s claims for these two bronze objects, looted from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860, to be auctioned at the Yve Saint Laurent auction tonight in Paris.  They had been transferred a number of times during the 20th century, and the alleged wrongdoing took place nearly 150 years ago.  If China wants the objects back they have only two options.

First, as Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent’s partner, offered earlier “The only thing I ask is for China to give human rights, liberty to Tibet and to welcome the Dalai Lama.”

Or second,  they could purchase the objects at the auction.  As Barbara Demick’s piece in the L.A. Times notes:

An entire museum in Beijing run by the Poly Corp., which is operated by a state-owned military enterprise, is filled with repatriated artworks, including several other bronze animal heads that along with the two held by Saint Laurent were part of the set of 12 representing the signs of the Chinese zodiac.

The museum bought the tiger, monkey and ox through auction houses in Hong Kong in 2000, while the pig’s head was recovered in New York by Hong Kong casino magnate Stanley Ho, who in turn donated it to the museum.

But the Chinese are increasingly resentful at the high prices they’ve had to fork out. Ho reportedly paid $9 million in a deal brokered by Sotheby’s to get the horse head back from Taiwan. Christie’s was reported to be asking $10 million each for the rabbit and rat in behind-the-scenes negotiations in the last few years with prospective Chinese buyers.

“It is really shameful. They are like kidnappers demanding ransom to give back your own child,” said Li Xingfeng, one of a group of 81 Chinese lawyers who filed the lawsuit last week in Paris trying to block the sale. They have vowed to pursue the case to recover the heads from whomever might buy them.

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Student Comment on Repatriation of Flemish art in French Museums

Paige Goodwin has a Student Comment in the recent Pennsylvania Law Review, Mapping The Limits Of Repatriable Cultural Heritage: A Case Study Of Stolen Flemish Art In French Museums, 157 Penn. L. Rev. 157 673 (2008). 

On June 20, 1939, Adolf Hitler called upon Hans Posse, one of his chief advisors, to establish the Sonderauftrag Linz (“Special Project Linz”)—a cultural complex in the Führer’s hometown. The showpiece of the propagandistic cultural center would be the Führermuseum, a grand museum housing the most revered European artwork from every century. By the end of the war, the Nazis had stolen more than 21,000 paintings, sculptures, and other art pieces for Hitler’s museum. Upon discovering the large-scale pillaging when the war ended, the Allies mounted a well-publicized campaign to return the stolen art to its rightful owners. For essentially the first time in history, the international art community launched a coordinated campaign to repatriate stolen art and revise museum acquisition policies. Beyond returning many of the stolen works, the postwar movement resulted in the 1954 Hague Convention, which conceived the art world’s newest buzzword: “cultural property.”

Nearly two centuries before Hitler’s art campaign, revolutionary and postrevolutionary French governments, particularly under Napoleon Bonaparte, oversaw many national political changes that implicated concepts of cultural property. Chief among these was the nationalization of the royal art collection at the Luxembourg Palace, later renamed the Musée Napoléon (and now known as the Louvre). Like Hitler, Napoleon envisioned a spectacular art museum bearing his name and charged French troops with confiscating art at home and in foreign conquests. Between 1794 and 1813, art shipments arrived in France nearly every year from Italy, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, and Spain. When the Musée Napoléon became too cramped with the spoils of war, Napoleon transferred art to regional museums throughout the country. Although the 1815 Treaty of Paris ended the war in Europe, most works stolen by the Napoleonic armies remain in the Louvre or in French regional museums today.

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Alderman on Cultural Property Law and Indigenous Peoples

Kimberley Alderman of the The Cultural Property & Archaeology Law Blog has posted a working paper “Ethical Issues in Cultural Property Law Pertaining to Indigenous Peoples“.  From the Introduction:

The purpose of this paper is to identify ethical challenges in cultural property law pertaining to indigenous peoples. Doing so is a necessary step in promoting a meaningful discourse over key crises in the cultural property trade.  By addressing ethical concerns in a discrete manner, we can cut through rhetoric, facilitate communication, and propose solutions that more precisely target harms born of the illicit trade in cultural property and repatriation disputes. I focus on indigenous peoples because they have an ethical stake in cultural property disposition, and they are the least represented in the international cultural property debates.

. . .  In Part II, I provide the background and context within which this discussion arises, answering the question, “Why define the ethical issues?” I describe a model of ethical decision-making originally developed for use in business, called the 5Ps Method. I explain that we are starting at the base of the 5Ps pyramid with “Problem,” which requires identifying the ethical problem. In surveying the surrounding facts, I describe the ongoing crisis in the cultural property trade, including divisiveness in scholarly debates and lack of clarity as to legal versus ethical concerns. I also note the recent passage of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which functions as an excellent backdrop to highlight indigenous concerns as independent from those of other stakeholders, including source nations.

In Part III, I parse several ethical concerns pertaining to indigenous peoples that emerge from the cultural property debates:

(1) Indigenous descendants of creator cultures are underrepresented in the cultural property debates;
(2) In cultural property law, control/possession and beneficial interest are inextricably linked, and indigenous peoples are not given adequate beneficial interest in their artifacts due to arguments against their getting control; and 

(3) Unsolicited representation of indigenous peoples constitutes a reinforcement of the idea that they are in need of custodial care, inherently undermining arguments that they are competent tocontrol cultural property.

In Part IV, I conclude with several recommendations. First, I suggest a more pragmatic approach to cultural property disputes, urging stakeholders to more clearly distinguish between legal considerations and ethical ones. Second, I urge indigenous peoples to assert themselves on the international cultural property front, independently from source nations, since ethical debates so often focus on the interests of indigenous groups. Recognizing this is not always possible, I encourage source nations to better involve indigenous peoples in repatriation initiatives. Finally, consistent with the purpose of this paper, I suggest that all stakeholders participate in pragmatic, meaningful discourse as to how these ethical issues might be creatively and categorically addressed.

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Tyler Green on the $50 Million "Arts Stimulus"

He’s not a fan, and I agree.  It is yet another sign of the lowly position given to federal arts policy.  He offers what I think is a very good suggestion:

. . . The arts community should take a lesson from how policy is made in Washington, from the policy-driven infrastructure of the city. The first step: The arts should join Washington’s think-tank culture. Arts philanthropists should fund arts policy fellows at major think tanks, places such as the Center for American Progress and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Smart arts thinkers would have the opportunity to be involved in policy debates, to develop new ideas about how government should be involved in the arts (and not just in one little agency, but across the federal apparatus).

Joining the Washington policy-making set wouldn’t result in immediate, FY 2010 policy changes, but over time it would lead to new ideas and new ways that the federal government could engage with and support the nation’s cultural vitality. Just as importantly: It would burrow cultural thinkers and backers into the culture of Washington influence, building a baseline of support for the arts amongst policy-makers who work in a range of fields. Perhaps, finally, a great nation would have the federal involvement in the arts that it deserves.


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Adler on Moral Rights

Amy Adler, NYU School of Law, has an essay in the most recent California Law Review, Against Moral Rights. From the introduction:

Moral rights scholarship is startling in its uniformity. Scholars take it as gospel that moral rights are crucial for art to flourish and that, if anything, we need a more robust moral rights doctrine. Commentators routinely lament the gap between our modest American moral rights laws and the more expansive European ones. In contrast to copyright law, which has produced a vibrantbody of scholarship critical of the law’s excesses, the main scholarly criticism of moral rights is that they do not reach far enough. Wading through the largely repetitive law review literature, it doesn’t take long to get the implicit message: if you don’t support moral rights, you’re a philistine who doesn’t understand the sanctity of art.

This essay seeks to undermine the foundations of moral rights scholarship, law, and theory. My argument is that moral rights laws endanger art in the name of protecting it. Drawing on contemporary art theory and practice, I focus on the moral right of “integrity,” called “the heart of the moral rights doctrine.” This right allows an artist to prevent modification and, in some cases, destruction of his art work. As I show, the right of integrity threatens art because it fails to recognize the profound artistic importance of modifying, even destroying, works of art, and of freeing art from the control of the artist. Ultimately, I question the most basic premise of moral rights law: that law should treat visual art as a uniquely prized category that merits exceptions from the normal rules of property and contract.

To put it mildly, this is not a popular argument. Indeed, it challenges the key assumptions of virtually all moral rights scholarship. But moral rights scholars have overlooked a surprising problem: the conception of “art” embedded in moral rights law has become obsolete. As a result, the law is on a collision course with the very art it seeks to defend. In fact, as I will show, moral rights are premised on the precise conception of “art” that artists have been rebelling against for the last forty years. Moral rights law thus purports to protect art, but does so by enshrining a vision of art that is directly at odds with contemporary artistic practice. It protects and reifies a notion of art that is dead. In this Essay I ask the question: does moral rights law make sense in an era in which “art,” at least as we have known it for centuries, is over?

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Mexico Denies Odyssey’s Request

Mexico has denied a request by Odyssey Marine to explore a shipwreck located in the Gulf of Mexico(remember the UK granted similar permission recently to exploit the HMS Victory).  From the AP:

The ship in question, the galleon Our Lady of Juncal, was part of a fleet hit by a powerful storm in 1631 in “one of the greatest tragedies that has ever occurred in Mexican waters,” according to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

The proposal by Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. of Tampa, Florida, “is not intended to conduct research and does not have the approval of archaeologists or an academic institution of recognized prestige,” the Institute said. It added that “treasure hunters have always had their eyes on” the wreck site.

Odyssey Marine chairman Greg Stemm said in a statement that “the proposal presented to Mexico for archaeological services is in compliance with the UNESCO Convention and would keep all cultural artifacts together in a collection.”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization says on its Web site that the convention aims to “preserve in situ all remains of human existence submerged for at least one hundred years.”

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