State Immunity, Anti-Seizure and Customary International Law

July 17-18, 2008
London, UK

Great pressure exists on museums to maximize public access to their collections, rationalize collecting policies, craft new ways of sharing their resources and explore international commercial opportunities. Art collections have become diplomatic and economic assets as well as scholarly resources, and are expected to fulfill an ambassadorial role in international conditions where competition is mounting and “loan fees” offer seductive inducements. These developments are reflected in the rise of anti-seizure or immunity statutes that seek to protect cultural objects from entanglement in legal proceedings while on loan to foreign states. The United Kingdom statute, Part 6 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, is an inventive but controversial contribution to this trend.

But concurrently with its response to an increased demand for circulation, the museum world is developing a heightened appreciation of the perils of illicit material and of the need to refrain from all taint of profiting from prior dubious transactions. Museums that value their reputation need to devise ways of isolating such material from the ethical sphere of art lending and exchange and of securing the return of unlawfully removed objects to their dispossessed owners. Does legal immunity support or subvert that need?

The main object of the conference is to explore the balance between two paramount modern imperatives in the field of art and antiquities: the unhindered cross-border movement of cultural material by way of loan, exchange, joint ownership schemes and other means, and the vindication of legal and other interests in cultural objects so that legitimate principles supporting legal title and national heritage are honored.

Co-sponsored by

Commission for Art Recovery

Foundation for International Cultural Diplomacy

Institute of Art and Law


  • Drafting an International Anti-Seizure Convention: is Cross-Border Agreement Attainable?
  • State Immunity for Cultural Objects under the Draft UN Convention
  • Commercial Transactions and State Immunity under Private International Law
  • State Immunity: a Diplomat’s View
  • Museums and Human Rights: the Natural History Museum episode and its Lessons for International Museums
  • Legal Archaeology and the Mobility of Title: Title Vindication within Cross-Border Cultural Property Claims
  • The Role of Public International Law in Private Law Claims
  • War Reparations, Restitution in Kind and Customary International Law
  • Sharing Art to and from Russia: Trust, Security, Diplomacy - Status Quo or Quid pro Quo?
  • The Legal Implications of Iraq for the Mobility of Archaeological Objects
  • The Principle of Immunity: Promoting Public Access, Honouring Private Rights
  • The Nuts and Bolts of Museum Immunity: Devising a Balanced Regime of Safe Conduct for Itinerant Art
  • Finally from Russia: The Royal Academy Bailments
  • Regulating the Export of Cultural Goods: the Justiciability of National Export Laws