- Navigation and Structure
- Contact Us with New Information
- Other Resources
The launch of IFAR’s Art Law & Cultural Property Database in 2008 was the result of years of work and drew, in part, on IFAR's extensive legal files relating to its primary areas of interest, including: attribution and authenticity; the legal and ethical issues concerning the acquisition and ownership of art; WWII /Holocaust-era art looting and restitution; and cultural property/antiquities issues. The impetus for this dynamic, electronic resource was a Conference on Provenance and Due Diligence that IFAR organized in April 2000 in collaboration with New York University. For that conference, IFAR prepared an extensive Resource Packet for attendees, and, in response to demand, continued to update it and make it available in hard copy. Subsequently, IFAR made the decision to transform its website into an information resource with a legal section comprising not only the materials in the conference Resource Packet, but also summaries of legal cases and other related information on art ownership, import, export, authenticity, attribution and other issues relating to art objects.
As an educational and research organization dedicated to integrity in the visual arts, IFAR has established a unique position at the intersection of art scholarship, art law, and the public interest. Since its founding in 1969, IFAR has developed effective solutions to pressing art-related issues, including art fraud and theft. With the Database, IFAR introduced a new tool to address the challenges created by the rapid and confusing development of laws concerning ownership and export of art and cultural property.
A confluence of factors has accelerated the growth in legislation and legal actions concerning the ownership, export and authenticity of art. First, is the proliferation of ownership claims for Holocaust-era looted art spurred on in part by the availability of newly declassified war documents and also the fall of the Soviet Union. At the same time, “source” countries are using new strategies to call for the repatriation and/or restricted ownership and export of art objects, particularly antiquities. The burgeoning art market has also fueled authenticity lawsuits. Meanwhile, U.S. and foreign courts are handing down decisions that are shaping art law.
These developments have intensified the need for the art world and the general public to have efficient access to relevant legal information. Hence, the IFAR Database.
For evaluation purposes due to grant requirements, we ask everyone to register to use ALWI. This will help us track usage (e.g. repeat visits) and improve the site in subsequent iterations. We also plan to survey registered users to elicit feedback and determine the efficacy of the site. We will not use the information for other purposes.
Although other areas of art law, such as copyright, will also be referenced, the primary focus of the IFAR Database is on legal and ethical issues concerning the acquisition, ownership, attribution and authenticity of works of art. Historically, these are IFAR's particular areas of interest. They are also areas currently in the news, thus underscoring the importance for this site.
The Database, which is a continually updated “living” resource, has three major components: 1) summaries of case law; 2) international legislation concerning the export and ownership of art and cultural property; 3) contact information for government officials worldwide to whom inquiries regarding the legality of cultural property purchases may be addressed. These sections are supplemented by an array of additional features, such as a glossary, text of U.S. statutes mentioned in the legal cases; thumbnail images of the artworks referenced in the legal cases; and links between sections.
The Case Law Summaries: Because of its long involvement in art law, IFAR has amassed a significant body of case law relating to out-of-court settlements, which are currently not accessible on legal search engines such as LexisNexis and Westlaw. Many restitution and authenticity cases are settled out-of-court, making the IFAR files, being made publicly accessible and searchable for the first time, particularly valuable. In choosing which cases—litigated and settled - to include, we have considered their influence and newsworthiness. Currently, the majority of the cases are U.S. cases. We will, of course, be adding many more cases, U.S. and foreign, on a regular basis.
The International Legislation section (ICPOEL) includes summaries of current foreign legislation on ownership and export, as well as the complete legislative documents, where available, both in the original language and English translation, if possible. We are continuing to translate additional documents on an on-going basis. Most translations are “unofficial,” although we have tried to indicate those translations that were provided by the governments themselves and are considered “official.” We have also included selected older pieces of legislation, even if superseded by recent legislation. This enables users to find the legislation that was in force at the time they acquired a work of art.
We have provided Contact Names for officials worldwide to whom an inquiry regarding the legality of acquiring a cultural artifact should be addressed. Please note: these names and contact information are exceedingly difficult to obtain and change regularly. Although we try to update the list each year via phone, fax, email, and letters, we still cannot vouch for the accuracy of the contact information.
Navigation and Structure
Two-part Structure with Links between Sections: We have made the Art Law & Cultural Property Database user-friendly, but the material itself is complex and requires some familiarity to navigate it easily. As noted above, there are two main sections: the ICPOEL (International Cultural Property Ownership and Export Legislation) and the Case Law Statutes (CLS). You will be able to jump from one section to the other, and there are links between them in specific areas. Thus, we have noted on the Country Summary pages in the International Cultural Property Legislation section whether there is a legal case in the United States that was spurred by a foreign country's ownership legislation. The Country Summary for Egypt, for example, links to the U.S. v. Schultz case. Similarly, the Schultz case indicates that Egypt's Patrimony Law 117 of 1983 was instrumental in that case, and links to the Country Summary for Egypt.
Case Law Outline: The cases are organized into eight overarching sections - ranging from cases concerning “World War II/ Holocaust Related Art Loss” to “Art Fraud, Attribution, Authenticity, Forgery. . .” Sections are further sub-divided, depending on the category, into Civil or Criminal Cases; Litigated Cases; Out-of-Court Settlements; or Pending. Each section of the Outline includes legal statutes (primarily U.S.) that are referenced in cases in that section. You may click on one of the statutes to read the full text. Thus, if the National Stolen Property Act was referenced in a case in that section, you will be able to click on the link to the statute and see the text.
You may scroll the Outline to see all the cases. When you find a case you are interested in learning more about, you may click on it to see: the précis (brief summary), the case facts, the court history, and the outcome. Other relevant information is also there, such as, jurisdiction (that is, in which court the case was brought); the full legal citation; the decision status (settled? pending?), and the legal claim that was brought (e.g. conspiracy). When there is not much information about a case, or if it not was considered that important, we may have only included a précis.
Matrix View: There are two ways to obtain an overview of the cases. The first is via the Outline mentioned above, where the cases are presented sequentially, within their category. An alternate way is the Matrix, which provides a “snapshot” view of all the cases within a category. It allows you to quickly see which ones are included, when they ended, what the issues were, who was involved, and their outcome.
Global Search Mechanism: In the upper right corner of each web page is a Global Search box. You may put in a case name or other important word to find it on the site.
Keywords: In addition to the global search mechanism, you can search the Case Law Summaries section via keywords. These are words selected for each case summary that highlight the main issues - e.g. “stolen art,” “looted art,” “conspiracy,” “replevin.” A keyword search allows you to find all of the cases with that particular keyword.
Glossary Words: The Case Law section contains an extensive glossary. Glossary words are highlighted in the text and you may click on a highlighted word to get the glossary definition. You may also scroll the glossary separately by clicking on the "glossary" link on the right side of each page.
Users' Guide: At any point you wish, you may click on the "Users' Guide" button on the right side of each page to get to this Users' Guide and jump, if you wish, to the particular section you need.
Searching the Cultural Property Legislation (ICPOEL) section: A map at the beginning of the section allows you to choose a country within a particular geographic area (e.g. Europe), or see for which countries in a given area, we have current legislation and summaries. Alternatively, you may simply indicate which country you wish to look up.
When you find the country, the first thing you will see is the summary of that country's legislation, broken down in to 6 categories:
- Relevant Legislation - This section lists the current legislation and a few selected historical documents. By clicking on the name of the legislation, you will link to the full text in either the original language or English translated, if available. Where possible, we indicate the effect of current legislation on prior legislation at the end of each country summary.
- Regulated Cultural Property - Definitions, Examples, and Registry. This section excerpts language from the relevant legislation that defines the types of property affected by the laws. Here and elsewhere, the parenthesis after the excerpt indicates which legislative document it is taken from.
- Export Restrictions - This section excerpts statements defining the export restrictions.
- Ownership Rights and Restrictions - This section indicates which countries claim ownership of all or some of the objects in or under their soil, or place restrictions on the transfer of ownership of certain types of objects.
- Violations, Penalties and Sanctions - This section lists the various penalties imposed by the country.
- International Conventions and Bilateral Agreements - This section lists several International Conventions, such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 1954 Hague Convention and whether the country is party to that Convention. For the United States, which enforces the 1970 UNESCO Convention by means of bilateral agreements (Memoranda of Understanding or MOUs) with other signatories to the Convention, we also list the countries with which there are bilateral agreements, and the dates when the country became a party to those agreements and other relevant comments. By clicking on the list of conventions and agreements, you can link to/ read the full text.
Obtaining international legislation can be a difficult proposition and in some cases we have not had complete success, although we keep trying. In addition, it is unusual to obtain legislation in English, and IFAR has embarked on a process of translating key documents, which will continue. Please note, the translations provided by IFAR, unless otherwise noted, are “unofficial.” For any legal action, you must rely on the original language or official translation ONLY, and we advise you to consult an attorney conversant with the specific legislation.
Disclaimer of Legal Responsibility
This is an educational resource. We are not providing legal advice. IFAR has made every effort to provide accurate and up-to-date information in this section of the website. The international legislation, however, was provided by the respective countries, and IFAR does not accept responsibility for its accuracy, or the accuracy of the translations. Nor is IFAR liable for any damages to any person acting upon it. Individuals and institutions undertaking legal obligations in relation to cultural property subject to export and ownership control should at all times consult the full text of the relevant legislation in the original language and, where necessary, legal counsel in that country regarding the interpretation of the legislation and relevant case law. Please also see the “Terms and Conditions” section of the IFAR website.
Contact Us with New Information
New information is being added to the Database on a regular basis. If you are aware of an important legal case that fits within the focus of the site, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org notifying us. We would appreciate it if you would include a link to the relevant legal texts (claim, indictment, decision, etc) or attach PDFs to your email. If you are aware of new international legislation regarding export or ownership of cultural property, please inform us of that, again, with a link to the text of the relevant legislation, or send us the actual legislation as a PDF or Word document.
This Database is intended to be only one step in a due diligence process of acquiring and verifying a work of art. There are many other resources that IFAR encourages you to check. For example, the U.S. State Department website has an exceptional body of material relating to U.S. cultural property law, particularly the bilateral agreements between the U.S. and other countries relating to the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on Cultural Property. Of particular interest is a chart of current and expired agreements under the Convention. Another excellent resource is the UNESCO website, particularly, the Cultural Heritage Database. Another important preservation site belongs to The Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, a group of lawyers who have joined together because of a common interest in the preservation and protection of cultural heritage. Their site has much useful legal information for users of IFAR's site.
The IFAR Art Law & Cultural Heritage Database was, and remains, an ambitious undertaking. It would not have been possible without the help of several major funders and numerous volunteers, interns, consultants, and staff who have worked on it over a period of many years. A multi-year National Leadership Grant was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency, in Fall of 2004. It was one of only six such grants awarded that year. The IMLS called the project “invaluable” for the museum community. The grant made it possible to jump-start the project and seek additional support. Another major grant was provided by the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation in 2006, and, subsequently, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. Below - and also on the Acknowledgments Page - are the individuals and organizations we would like to thank.
Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency
Peter Jay Sharp Foundation
Robert Sterling Clark Foundation
Samuel H. Kress Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Joukowsky Family Foundation
Hazen Polsky Foundation
David M. Campbell
Jack A. Josephson
The project has also benefited from the on-going advice and legal counsel of many people. The Project Director since its beginning is Dr. Sharon Flescher, IFAR's Executive Director, who conceived and executed its launch over a period of several years, and continues to supervise staff and interns, and serve as the liaison with the legal advisors and consultants. Beverly Wolff, Project Attorney/Manager for two years until 2007, helped to shape the project, build the information, and supervise the legal interns. Dr. David Green was the Information Management Consultant and worked closely with both IFAR and the Web design team, Behavior, LLC. Axana Sternberg, then IFAR staff, also contributed time and skills to the early stages of the project.
As a legal resource, the Database would not exist without the legal expertise of many people. In addition to the names above, we would like to thank:
Legal Advisors and Consultants
John H. Merryman (deceased)
James A.R. Nafziger
Stephen E. Weil (deceased)
Members of IFAR’s Law Council who made their time available as needed, in particular, Franklin Feldman, the late Herbert Hirch and Peter R. Stern. And the many other attorneys who graciously reviewed material and otherwise lent a hand.
Legal Interns, Volunteers, and Staff
Juan Pablo de la Puente
Nicholas A. Dietz
Thomas R. Kline
James D. Lee
Morgan V. Manley
Mary Morabito Rosewater
Molly Torsen Stech
Mary Elizabeth Williams