Should the art market be regulated?

June 29 2015

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Picture: Wikipedia

Not especially, says this recovering art dealer. But in Apollo Magazine, Henry Little (an art dealer) points out that there is already a hefty amount of regulation anyway:

A report compiled by the lawyer Pierre Valentin of Constantine Cannon LLP, at the request of the British Art Market Federation (BAMF), lists 167 laws and regulations (as of February 2015) that apply to the British art market in England and Wales, suggesting that a dealer active today operates in an unequivocally regulated market. With notable exceptions such as foreign laws that may apply, or laws governing general business practice, it includes laws, regulations and codes of conduct covering everything from Nazi loot to VAT, and from endangered flora and fauna to the protection of shipwrecks – many of which are effective laws not specifically aimed at the art trade. The International Art Market in 2011 report repeats anecdotal observations from dealers who cite the mushrooming of regulations and charges as one of the most significant developments of the past few decades.

Skimming the list of regulations, it swiftly becomes clear quite how many of them are relatively new – not only insofar as pre-war legislation has been in some cases more rigorously codified, but also with the introduction of innovations such as the Artist’s Resale Right regulations of 2006. All the major international treaties aimed directly at the trade, such as the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970), occurred during or after the Second World War. Any gallerist, dealer or auction house operating in England and Wales is answerable to a wide range of English, EU and international laws, whether directly aimed at the trade or clearly applicable to it.

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