Good luck to all the teams fighting over the Blue Pineapple in Chicago at the National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court competition this weekend! This competition is put together by DePaul College of Law with the help of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. It’s a great showcase for these soon-to-be-lawyers and this field. A bit about this year’s problem:
The 2015 Competition will focus on constitutional challenges to the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), 17 U.S.C. § 106A, which protects visual artists’ moral rights of attribution and integrity. The problem will address both a First Amendment and a Fifth Amendment challenge to VARA.
Cultural heritage law deals with our most prized possessions and often spans beyond national borders, and, inevitably, has become the subject of often contentious legal debates and policies. This dynamic and growing legal field deals with the issues that arise as our society comes to appreciate the important symbolic, historical and emotional role that cultural heritage plays in our lives. It encompasses several disparate areas: protection of archaeological sites; preservation of historic structures and the built environment; preservation of and respect for both tangible and intangible indigenous cultural heritage; the international market in art works and antiquities; and recovery of stolen art works.
And Chicago must be the place to be for art and cultural heritage law this weekend, as the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium will also be hosting a two-day conference titled: ‘Archaeological Looting: Realities and Possibilities for New Policy Approaches’.
“Any transaction in 1935, where the sellers on the one side were Jews and the buyer on the other side was the Nazi state itself is by definition a void transaction”.
So argues Nicholas O’Donnell, an attorney representing descendants of the Jewish art dealers who sold a collection of medieval artworks known as the “Guelph” or “Welfenschatz” Treasure, allegedly under duress and threat of persecution. The complaint for the two heirs was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to recover yesterday afternoon. The objects were part of the treasury of the Braunschweig cathedral and were used to store and display relics. The claimants allege that a group of Jewish art dealers were forced to sell the objects in 1935 to the German state of Prussia.
One unfortuante aspect here is that the German commission charged with resolving the claims of Nazi-era claimants was unable to achieve a satisfactory result for the claimants and the German government. One of the likely issues in this dispute will be one the timelinesss of this suit, whether a court will examine the circumstances surrounding an alleged forced sale nearly 80 years after it took place. The complaint alleges that the objects were sold under persecution for 4.15 million Reichsmarks (RM). If we do some rough back-of-the-envelope calculations, the exchange rate was 2.45 RM for $1. So that means the objects were sold for just shy of $1.7 million in 1935 dollars, which be nearly $28 million today. Considering the treasure may be worth as much as $226m, the German State seems to have received a pretty good bargain. The legal question will be whether that sale was under duress.
Art & Law: Art in Peril is an interdisciplinary conference convened to discuss varying perspectives on questions of art and law and to break down the barriers of specialization. Art & Law: Art in Peril intends to improve communication and promote an exchange on the most pressing issues at the juncture of art and law. We aim to compose panels of speakers from a variety of disciplines, grouping papers by theme, geographic or temporal location, rather than by academic department.
We encourage submissions from scholars and professionals in art history, law, archeology, history, public policy, museum studies, classics, art conservation, and beyond. Suggested topics include, but are by no means limited to:
Historical perspectives on the interrelationship between art and law
Consequences of current conflicts on art and cultural heritage sites and objects in the Middle East (or elsewhere)
Perspectives towards notions of originality and authenticity of artwork
The legal aspects of the conservation of objects, sites, and/or structures
International dispute resolution of cultural property whose ownership is disputed
The relationship between cultural property and intellectual property
Human remains, collections, and the law
The digitization of artwork and visual culture
We intend to publish proceedings from the conference in either a journal, or as a stand-alone anthology.
Please email abstracts of no more than 300 words to Sarah Rabinowe at email@example.com by 28 February 2015. Along with the abstract please include your name, institution, paper title and a brief biography. Successful applicants will be notified by 13 March 2015. Selected speakers will be given further information about the Travel Fund available to offset transportation and accommodation costs.
Art & Law: Art in Peril will take place at the University of Cambridge, Pembroke College with an evening reception at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. Upon request, assistance with accommodation reservations will be provided.
A joint Swiss and Italian investigation has resulted in a seizure of this portrait, which may be a work by Leonardo da Vinci. Whether the work is, in fact, a recently surfaced work by the Renaissance master is very much in doubt. Some have tried to attribute the work to him the Telegraph reports:
Carbon dating has shown that there is a 95 per cent probability that the portrait was painted between 1460 and 1650, and tests have shown that the primer used to treat the canvas corresponds to that employed by the Renaissance genius.
Carlo Pedretti, a professor emeritus of art history and an expert in Leonardo studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the tests showed there were “no doubts” that the portrait was the work of Leonardo.
However Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of the history of art at Trinity College, Oxford, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the artist, has expressed doubts about whether the painting, which measures 24in by 18in, is the work of Leonardo.
As the United Nations Security Council prepares to confront the Islamic State, more reports are looking at just how much looting and destruction is taking place there, and the claims about the connection between the illicit antiquities trade continues to receive anecdotal support.
The N.Y. Times reported that a draft resolution is going to be discussed to confront the Islamic State on “oil and antiquities”:
The draft resolution, which was scheduled to be discussed by Council members in a closed meeting Friday afternoon, requires all 193 member states of the United Nations to prevent the sale of antiquities from Syria, similar to a measure the Council passed 10 years ago regarding antiquities from Iraq.
And yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported on the efforts of a group called Heritage for Peace, to document looting and work to combat the illicit trade:
In November, 30 senior members of the group were invited to travel to Turkey for training and technology after attracting the attention of NGOs and foreign governments. Only eight could make the trip because fighting with Islamic State blocked their route. The three-day training session in a secret location close to the Syria-Turkish border was run by Heritage for Peace, or HfP, a Barcelona-based NGO that sees heritage preservation as a way to bring warring parties to the negotiating table.
Leading the instruction was Rene Teijgeler, a Dutch archaeologist and former lieutenant colonel in the Dutch army, who ran heritage preservation operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his partner, Isber Sabrine, a Syrian-born archaeologist based in Barcelona.
“We are neutral. We adhere to the Red Cross code of conduct and we are very careful about who we operate with,” said Mr. Teijgeler, pulling on a cigarette in a hotel cafe. “We vet them carefully. You don’t want wild cowboys doing crazy things,” he said.
The training, partly funded by the Dutch government, focused on how to uniformly catalog damage at ancient sites like the Roman amphitheater at Palmyra or the crusader castle of Crac des Chevaliers. Trainees were given laptops and cameras with powerful zooms to help improve their work.