The latest issue of Art Antiquity and Law has now been published and hard copies are being sent to subscribers and members, with the digital version available online to subscribers who have chosen this option.
This issue contains a thought-provoking piece by Alexander Herman in which he points out that the recent Charities Act 2022 could have far-reaching implications for the restitution powers of UK national institutions (such as the British Museum, the National Gallery and Tate). Such institutions are governed by statutes which limit their powers to return or deaccession objects, even where the trustees are in agreement that such an action would be appropriate. The new legislation would change this in two ways: first by allowing trustees of institutions otherwise prevented by statute from disposing of property (e.g. national museums) to seek authorisation for such disposals when these are motivated by a moral obligation and secondly by allowing the trustees to make ex gratia disposals of low-valued trust property without the requirement for approval, the value of which is to be measured along a sliding scale based on the gross income of the charity.
A timely piece by Martin Bienstock, Esq. reminds us that the US Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016 (HEAR Act) will, on the sixth anniversary of its passage, expire, leaving many claimants without recourse. The avenues for recovery opened up by the Act appear, he says, to have been underutilised. After an examination of the provisions of the Act and the cases in which it has been relied on, he ends by noting the powerful public policy underlying the Act and suggesting that it might be appropriate for Congress to extend the 16 December 2022 deadline by another six years.
The most recent stage in the attempt by the heirs of German Jewish dealers to recover the Welfenschatz, or Guelph Treasure, from Germany’s Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK) is noted by Stephanie Drawdy. The US court held that the dealers were German nationals and the taking of their property by the German State did not therefore fall within the ‘expropriation exception’ of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) with the result that US courts did not have jurisdiction to decide the claim.
A recent decision of the High Court of England and Wales outlines the principles applicable for issuing search warrants at the request of a foreign jurisdiction. Sinéad Esler Patel examines the decision in Al Hajjeh v. Westminster Magistrates’ Court where the applicant sought judicial review of an order granting a warrant to the Metropolitan Police to seize a cultural artefact allegedly stolen in Turkey and which had then resurfaced at Christie’s. The Court considered claims by the person claiming to be the current owner of the artefact that the District Judge had been materially misled in the information provided to him by the police, and also that the artefact had been obtained for a purpose other than that provided for in the relevant legislation. He argued that, had all relevant information been provided, the warrant might not have been issued. The Court, however, disagreed.
Finally, we reproduce the recent guidance for museums from Arts Council England on restitution and repatriation. This guidance, which was prepared in close collaboration with our Institute, seeks to provide advice and best practice for museums in England on responding to restitution and repatriation cases. It sets out recommendations on all aspects of museum operations affected by these issues.
You can subsribe to the journal here.