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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stolen Art, Forget About It !!!

Letters to the Editor

The Times November 28, 2006

Stolen art works
Sir, We are deeply concerned at the Government’s proposal to give complete immunity to those who wish to display stolen and looted art works by making them available for exhibition in this country. The proposed legislation, buried in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill, would provide automatic protection from seizure to lenders outside Britain, making them safe from the legitimate claims of the rightful owners.

The justification is that the UK’s position as a leading centre for world-class exhibitions will be jeopardised unless all loans are protected from seizure. This reasoning results from pressure exerted by museums and those overseas whose concern for the provenance of art works owned by them is at best cavalier. In fact, the result will be that Britain will become one of the few countries in the West where such ill-gotten gains can be displayed with impunity and where the rights of the true owners will be so easily frustrated.

The public interest must surely be in upholding the rule of law, rather than promoting an international free-for-all through the unrestricted circulation of tainted works of art. Do we really wish to educate our children to have no respect for history, legality and ethical values by providing museums with the opportunity freely to exhibit stolen property?

The morally correct and legally responsible approach, adopted by many countries, is for objects proposed for loan to galleries and museums to be subject to rigorous inquiries to determine their provenance and that rightful owners have the opportunity to recover works surfacing in this way. The current proposals, giving automatic and indiscriminate protection against seizure mean that otherwise respectable institutions in this country will have no reason to make such inquiries. This legislation shames us and should be opposed rigorously.

LORD CARLILE OF BERRIEW
Liberal Democrat

LORD FELDMAN
Conservative

BARONESS GOLDING
Labour

LORD HOGG OF CUMBERNAULD
Labour

LORD JACOBS
Liberal Democrat

LORD JANNER OF BRAUNSTONE
Labour

LORD KALMS
Conservative

BARONESS LUDFORD, MEP
Liberal Democrat

BARONESS NEUBERGER
Liberal Democrat

BARONESS O’CATHAIN
Conservative

LORD CAREY OF CLIFTON

Art Hostage comments:

A line in the sand must be drawn, societies in general have a duty to set an example to its citizens.


In the US, anti-seizure provisions do not always apply to stolen works. In New York, the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law 12.03, was changed in 2000 to limit its scope to civil proceedings only. Similarly, the Texas anti-seizure legislation adopted in 1999 under the Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code dictates that works of art on loan may not be seized, except for stolen artworks. In addition, the Federal Immunity from Seizure Act, 22 U.S.C. Section 2459 requires applicants seeking protection to certify that it has no reason to know of any circumstances with respect to the potential for competing ownership claims.

Pandora's box has been opened and who knows where the chips will fall.

Works of art imported into the United States by dubious means, even if that was during the nineteenth century/Twentieth century may be held up to scrutiny unless there is a cut off date agreed, because if not then issues such as the Elgin Marbles will become prominant and if they were to be handed back to their rightful home, Greece, then any works of art illegally exported and imported after this date, 1806, will become targets.

This could, in the years ahead create a whole re-sale of some of the worlds most valuable works of art.

There is historic documentation in archives that quote art collectors from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries almost boasting about, "How they smuggled certain Vermeer's, Rubins, etc out of 19/20th century Europe, by stashing them at the bottom of their luggage trunks,"

If the transit of artworks is called into question dating back Two hundred years, it will certainly provide a spectical and merry-go-round of art collections to rival any art collecting period.

The one thing that I would have reservations about is if artworks were not on public display and hidden in private collections.

The Honourable Ronald S. Lauder has set a benchmark, and this should be the gold standard of future art collecting, a true example of humanity rarely seen in todays vacuous world.

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