The Restitution Dialogues conference series

Posted on: November 24, 2019 by

Arch of Titus

Frieze from the Arch of Titus in Rome depicting the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, during which the Roman legions looted the Temple of Herod and carried off the sacred objects within.

The Institute of Art & Law is happy to be a part of the team putting on a three-part conference series over the next two years, The Restitution Dialogues: A Transnational Conversation on Cultural Loss, Return and Renewal. The series involves a conference in Tel Aviv, Israel in December 2019 (complete), followed by one in Toronto, Canada in 2022 and one in London, UK thereafter.

Restitution – the return of property that was wrongly taken – is an old legal idea that is enjoying dramatic new life.  From claims for the return of Nazi-looted artworks, books and archives, to demands for the return of human remains or the repatriation of Indigenous cultural artifacts, to claims for the restitution of colonial artefacts, these new demands to ‘give it back’ are making themselves felt across the globe.  As more and more individuals and groups seek the return of precious property that was wrongly taken, institutions, individuals and governments struggle to respond. The Restitution Dialogues seek to cast new light on these difficult issues by beginning a trans-jurisdictional conversation with academics, practitioners, policy makers, affected communities and those seeking return.

University of Tel Aviv

University of Tel Aviv, where the first conference in the series will take place.

The Dialogues are a transnational collaboration between Tel Aviv University, the University of Toronto, and the Institute of Art and Law.  They seek to provide a comparative, transnational and cross-practice framework to illuminate the issues surrounding claims for the restitution of lost art and cultural property.  The Dialogues are organized around three broad examples: art and other property looted or lost during the Holocaust period in Europe (1933-45) (Tel Aviv); human remains, cultural artefacts, and other material taken from Indigenous peoples as settlers moved into their territories (Toronto); and artefacts and antiquities appropriated by European colonial powers during their period of expansion (London).  The aim of the Restitution Dialogues is to bring these examples together to illuminate issues and to help to craft responses.

The first instalment of the conference series took place at the University of Tel Aviv on 11 December and 12 December 2019 at the Sonia and Edward Kossoy Conference Room in the Law School. Topics included: Genocide and Restitution: A Comparative Framework; Restituting Culture: Between Books and Artworks; Who owns Kafka?; The Washington Principles as a Paradigm Change; Rethinking Private Law; and Cultural Restitution and Transitional Justice: Israel-Palestine.

See full programme here.