IFAR Receives IMLS Grant for Art Law Website Initiative

December 2004

The International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR), a not-for-profit organization established in 1969, has been awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent federal grant-making agency, to help transform its existing Website into an information resource for museums, the broader art and legal worlds, and the public. The two-year grant provides partial support for IFAR’s Art Law Website Initiative, a project on which IFAR has been working for five years that draws on material IFAR has compiled over a period of thirty-five years.

The IMLS project entails a major expansion and redesign of the IFAR Website ( and will include the following elements:

  • International legislation and statutes relating to the ownership and export of cultural property
  • Cultural property contact information for authorities and agencies around the world to whom one should address a question concerning the legality of acquiring an art object
  • Summaries of case law in IFAR’s primary areas of interest – including art forgery, fraud, theft, looting, antiquities issues and World War II-related art ownership claims.

The project builds, in part, on material that IFAR has been making available in hard copy since the April 2000 Conference on Provenance and Due Diligence it organized in collaboration with New York University. For the conference, IFAR compiled a resource packet including information relating to international cultural property legislation and cultural property contact names. IFAR has continued to update and expand the material, and numerous copies have been ordered by museums, galleries, institutions, and researchers around the world. The popularity of the packet -- and the conference proceedings published in the IFAR Journal -- prompted IFAR to consider ways to expand the information and make it more broadly accessible. The case-law component of the Website Initiative is not available in hard copy.

The difficulty of finding international cultural property legislation as well as the people within the foreign countries to whom one might address an inquiry prompted IFAR to begin the project in 1999. Currently IFAR has contact information for 109 countries. Each year, it contacts every country to verify the accuracy of its information.

The IMLS grant will help IFAR redesign its Website, translate additional foreign language legislation, refine, expand and digitize the vast amount of material, and place the material on its Website in a searchable, user-friendly format. IFAR will continue to maintain, expand, and update the legal resource after the grant period.

IMLS reviewers called the IFAR project “invaluable” to the museum community, whose need to research the “legal aspects of collections has increased exponentially over the last few years.” They praised IFAR’s demonstrated commitment to the project and noted that the information it will provide is “vital.”

IFAR’s Executive Director, Dr. Sharon Flescher, expressed her gratitude to the IMLS and added that “the grant will help IFAR fulfill its role as an educational and research organization working at the intersection of art scholarship and art law. It will provide us with an additional and important tool to help people navigate the rapid and complex development of law and ethical practices relating to the ownership of art.”

IFAR is one of only six organizations nationwide selected to receive an award in the IMLS National Leadership Grant’s “Professional Practices” category, announced on September 21, 2004. The IMLS is a U.S. federal grant-making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners by helping libraries and museums serve their communities. Under the terms of the grant, IFAR must raise additional funds for the project, which, over the years, has also received support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Joukowsky Family Foundation.

The Art Law Website Initiative is part of a larger IFAR initiative to transform its Website into an information resource. Another component, the development of a catalogue raisonné database, is also underway and was just awarded a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.