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Art Law Talking Points 

What are the biggest Art Law talking points in each country right now? 


Art Lawyers report on the three key issues, legal developments and events taking place in their country right now 

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French Courthouse

Deaccessioning of nazi-looted art in public collections

On 23 May 2023, the Senate approved a bill submitted by the Ministry of Culture to facilitate the

restitution of cultural property looted during the Second World War and currently in public collections.

Until now, the principle of the inalienability of all public property made any decision to return it

cumbersome, as it had to be authorised by a law passed by Parliament. The new law provides for a

simplified procedure through a special commission. It also extends the scope of these restitutions to

include acts of looting committed between 30 June 1933 and 8 May 1945 in territories occupied,

controlled or influenced by the Nazi regime. It also allows the French state, with the consent of the

victim's family, to initiate restitution or to propose alternative forms of compensation to restitution.

There are an estimated 100,000 looted works of art still in public collections.

Should art works be censured?

An art work from the Swiss artist Miriam Cahn, “Fuck abstraction” exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo

museum in Paris recently made the headlines. Four associations for the defense of children and against

pedo-pornography sued the state museum before the judge for serious and manifestly unlawful

interference with a fundamental freedom, and asked for the immediate removal of the painting. On 14

April, the Conseil d'Etat found in favor of the museum noting that the artist's sole intention was to

denounce a crime, namely the use of sexuality and rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity.

The judge also observed that the museum had taken precautions to prevent unaccompanied minors and

adults with minors from accessing the painting, and that, on the way to the painting, the museum had

provided the contextual elements that made it possible to give its extraordinary crudity the meaning that

the artist intended.

A simple word sold at auction

On June 6th, the auctioneer Giquello et associés will offer a lot at auction entitled « I want to slip a work inside an individual » by Alberto Sorbelli. Quite surprisingly, the art work is not physical piece but a simple word that will remain secret, known only to its author and the buyer. After the sale, in a closed room at the notary’s office, the artist will say the word to the successful bidder and hand down an explanatory note. The purchaser will be bound to secrecy and if he/she breaks this rule, the work will be considered as destroyed.

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