Sunday, March 15, 2009

SAFE Global Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum

SAFE (Saving Antiquities for Everyone) is hosting its annual candlelight vigil for the Iraq Museum on April 10-12.  The vigil commemorates the loss to the global community resulting from the systematic looting of the Iraq Museum in April 2003, during which thousands of antiquities went missing or were destroyed.  Detailed information is up on SAFE's website.

The Archaeological Institute of America is hosting a vigil on April 10 at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, which will also feature Cori Wegener of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield.  The Mead Art Museum is co-hosting a vigil with the Iraqi Children's Art exchange at Amherst College in Massachusetts on April 14, including a presentation of Iraqi children's artwork and a tour of the museum's antiquities gallery.  This is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the threat to humanity's material past.  SAFE is also calling for volunteers to host vigils worldwide, so you can't make it to one of these, you can get your own community involved by contacting SAFE at this link:

Friday, March 13, 2009

U.S. and Honduras Extend Bilateral Agreement

On March 11, 2009, the United States and Honduras extended their Memorandum of Understanding that restricts the import into the United States of Pre-Columbian archaeological materials. The United States enters into MOUs or bilateral agreements with other States Parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property under Article 9 of the Convention and the U.S.’s implementing legislation, the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. These agreements last for a maximum of five years but can be renewed an indefinite number of times. 

This agreement is substantially the same as the 2004 agreement with Honduras, the text of which can be found at:  Pre-Columbian objects that belong to one of the designated categories and are therefore subject to import restriction may enter the United States if accompanied by an export license from Honduras or if they left Honduras before March 12, 2004, the date of entry into force of the original agreement. The Federal Register notice may be found at: Vol. 74, No. 46 / Wednesday, March 11, 2009 / Rules and Regulations 10483.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Law Students: Submit Your Paper To The 2009 LCCHP Student Writing Competition in Cultural Heritage Law

Law students interested in submitting a paper for the 2009 Student Writing Competition in Cultural Heritage Law can access the submission form and competition details on the LCCHP Education Committee's writing competition page.  Faculty members may also access the form to nominate a student paper for consideration.  The window for submission closes on June 12, 2009. 

Suitable topics for analysis include cultural property, art law, historic preservation, indigenous cultures and intangible heritage (but not intellectual property except as it relates to intangible indigenous heritage).  Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Andrews Kurth, LLP, the first-place paper will receive $1,000 and the second-place paper $500.  In addition, the winning papers may be offered publication in the Yearbook of Cultural Property Law or on the LCCHP web site.  

If you are a law student interested in cultural heritage law, further information on the LCCHP's newly formed Students and New Professionals Committee is available at:

U.S. v. Eighteenth Century Peruvian Oil on Canvas Painting

The District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia recently issued the first published decision in a case of forfeiture brought under a Memorandum of Understanding under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, 19 U.S.C. § 2602. The two paintings, an 18th and a 17th century oil on canvas, were brought into the United States from Bolivia through Miami International and Reagan Washington National Airports. Both paintings are representative of the Cuzco School of Art, which began in the Incan town of Cuzco in south-central Peru, and had been cut out of their frames for transport. A dealer who was asked to sell the paintings suspected they were stolen and contacted the FBI, which seized the paintings. The importer chose to contest the administrative forfeiture. The government moved for summary judgment, which the court granted.

The MOU with Peru includes on its designated list of cultural materials subject to import restriction “[o]bjects that were used for religious evangelism among indigenous peoples” and specifically mentions paintings of the Colonial period, between 1532 and 1821. Although required for the import of objects on the designated list that left the country after the effective date of the import restrictions, the importer could not produce a certificate showing that export from Peru was not in violation of Peruvian law.

The decision is notable because it clearly sets out the placement and shifting of burden of proof in CPIA forfeiture cases. The United States bears the initial burden of showing that the seized property is designated under an MOU with another State Party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention and is subject to import restriction under the CPIA. Once the government makes this showing, the burden of proof shifts to the claimant to establish “by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property is not subject to forfeiture, or to establish an applicable affirmative defense.” In this case, the claimant defended by stating that the paintings came from Bolivia, not Peru, but the court rejected this defense because the U.S.-Bolivia MOU also covers Colonial and Republican religious art, including oil paintings of the saints, angels, apostles and Holy Family and dating between 1533 to 1900. Therefore, regardless of whether the paintings had originated in Peru or in Bolivia, they were still subject to forfeiture.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Update on Christie’s Sale of Chinese Sculptures

The sculptures of a rat and of a rabbit, originally part of the zodiac fountain of the Imperial Palace in Beijing, were each sold for close to $20 million at the Christie’s sale in Paris of the Yves St. Laurent estate. Despite China’s protests that Anglo-French forces looted the sculptures in 1860, the sale exceeded the pre-sale high estimates. Chinese authorities reacted angrily and, according to a Bloomberg News report, will require Christie’s to give details of the ownership and provenance of any artifacts it wants to bring in or out of China. A spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry indicated that China will continue to seek the return of the sculptures, although, as the French court that heard a last-minute attempt to stop the sale evidently concluded, it is unlikely that any international conventions or domestic law will require these returns. And while it is desirable to seek more documentation and transparency in international art transactions, it is also not clear how China will carry out these additional requirements for Christie’s-related sales.