UK government to strengthen restitution laws

July 24 2017

Image of UK government to strengthen restitution laws

Picture: Tate

The UK government has announced that will extend the legislation allowing UK museums to return Nazi-looted goods to beyond the the current 2019 end, to an indefinite period. Laura Chesters in the ATG has more:

The announcement comes ahead of a conference planned for London in September called 70 Years and Counting: The final opportunity?

The event is expected to attract hundreds of experts from Europe and further afield and aims to examine how the process of returning stolen artworks can be accelerated.

In 2000, the UK government established the Spoliation Advisory Panel to examine claims of Nazi-looted art in British collections. Since then, the panel has advised on 20 such claims and 23 cultural objects [such as the Constable formerly at Tate, above] have either been returned to families or they have received compensation.

Whilst I've always been in favour of the most rigorous attempts to return Nazi-looted goods, I have written before about setting some kind of time limit on restitution in general. This was prompted some years ago by the ridiculous case of the UK dealer Mark Weiss being forced to hand over a painting the French government said had been stolen in the early 1800s. 

Update - a areader writes:

Presumably the Weiss case sets a precedent for restitution of a sizeable portion of the Louvre collection stolen by Napoleon during this same period.

Update II - another reader writes:

In your interesting piece re: UK restitution laws to be strengthened, you mentioned the "ridiculous" Weiss/Tournier case. Even though I consider, like you, that reasonable time limits should be set in any country, I also believe that a dealer as experienced as Mark Weiss should have taken the time to read the 2001 Tournier exhibition catalogue (page 177, "Portement de croix", gone missing from the musée des Augustins after 1818) prior to purchasing the painting from the group of dealers who bought it at auction in Florence in 2009.

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.