For the latest IAL Study Forum on 22nd February, we headed to York for a day of fascinating talks covering topics which ranged from planning and property law to issues of censorship and copyright.
We began the day with a welcome from IAL’s Assistant Director Alex Herman and Professor Michael White, Head of the University of York’s History of Art Department. We were delighted to work with the University of York on this event, not least for the opportunity to host the Forum in the historic and Grade I listed King’s Manor.
Dr Emma Waring (Senior Lecturer, University of York) was our first speaker and examined the protection of sculpture in law. Different rules apply depending on the classification of the sculpture as either land or chattel and the specific geography of its location. For this reason, Dr Waring argued that a more coherent structure of protection is needed.
Next, Dr Rebecca Hawkes-Reynolds (Researcher, IAL) examined a recent judicial review concerning the planning permission for proposed improvements to York’s famous Clifford’s Tower. She noted that efforts to improve visitor enjoyment are vital since English Heritage, and the sites it manages, are to be self-funding from 2022/2023.
Charlotte Dunn (Researcher, IAL) then considered the topic of authenticity, focussing on a recent Canadian decision concerning a work purportedly by an indigenous artist. Some of the case’s unanswered questions relating to provenance, attribution and the application of the law of sale by description were highlighted and discussed.
The law of treasure was then examined by Professor Geoffrey Bennett (Senior Fellow, IAL) who outlined the developments in this area as well as how to address some of its limitations. Crispin Oliver (Barrister, Dere Street Chambers) then gave his viewpoint as a local coroner, who is responsible for holding inquests to determine whether an object is treasure and the facts of its discovery. Both speakers considered why some areas produce more treasure than others and how to address inconsistencies in reporting throughout the UK.
Professor Amy Werbel (Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York/Fulbright Scholar, University of York) then considered the tricky topic of censorship and obscenity. By offering a comparison of UK and US law, she discussed the importance of defining what is ‘obscene’ and how artists are always liable to push back against this.
To conclude the day, Professor Michael White examined the famous Rietveld Red/Blue Chair. He discussed how furniture comes to be classified as art and how copyright law applies in this context. He questioned where this might leave the category of artistic craftsmanship in UK copyright law.
Issues such as the enjoyment of local historic monuments or the censorship of material online have the potential to affect us all. The breadth of topics covered by the day’s speakers highlights just how wide-ranging the field of art law can be and the importance of discussing and debating these topics.