Sunday, 2 August 2015

Germans and UK Cultural Property Law

Yet another article about the German legislation proposals, this one in an art magazine. Once again, we find foreigners struggling to understand Britain's cultural property legislation. I mean its such rocket-science innit? What a shame the Portable Antiquities Scheme has never really got around after eighteen years to explaining to people everywhere how it works. Waste of money that was. This is how the text begins:
The German art market is fighting a sword of Damocles called “Kulturgueterschutz,” a new law proposed in the name of protecting the nation’s cultural property, a law that some dealers vehemently claim could doom the culture of collecting, donating, and publicly showing art works if passed in parliament. The Cultural Property Protection Act, supported by the German minister of culture Monika Grütters, was intended to reform and standardize federal and non-federal laws concerning import, export, and protection of artifacts considered to be cultural heritage in a single cultural-protection law — largely, works considered of extraordinary importance to the culture heritage cannot be exported. Similar laws already exist in France and the UK and changes are needed to meet harmonization demands from the European Community.
The article concentrates on the issue of the state purchase of works of art. The argument being trotted out is that "unlike in France or the UK the new draft of the Cultural Property Protection Act does not clearly provide any right of “pre-emption,” or the state’s option to buy works deemed national treasures at a market price before entering the market". Now, this is rather misleading in the case of what it says about the UK. In the case of Treasure (dugup artefacts of a certain restricted type) public collections (NOT "the state") can buy an object after it has been deemed to be the property of The Crown (and if they can't find the money the object goes on open sale anyway). There is no similar provision for any other kind of cultural property in the UK. As we all know, they go onto the market, and are sold. If the buyer is foreign, an export licence may be (rarwely) refused to give a British collection the chance to raise the equivalent price. If they fail (as has happened just now with the Sekhemet statue) the export licence ban will be lifted and off it goes into the big wide world.

Bearing in mind that caveat, readers can follow some of the other problems art dealers in Germany see with this new law, which perhaps attempts to do too much within the scope of a single all-embracing document. The problems resulting from the sale of dugup conflict antiquities are different from those involving seventy-year old watercolours, 18th century veneered commodes or incunabula.  Again the problem is with treating collectable archaeological artefacts as "ancient art". I would argue that we need to at least split the antiquities off from the rest. 

Stefan Kobel, 'Opinion: With Cultural Protection Proposed, What Will Become of the German Art Market?' Blouin Art Info July 31, 2015.

1 comment:

David Knell said...

While the current German law of 2007 was simply an implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and needed to be all-encompassing, the different issues now need to be dealt with separately in any subsequent legislation. It is not only confusing but downright ridiculous to lump them all together and only serves to obfuscate any focus on the different issues.

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.