Article 3(7)

For the purposes of this Convention, a “public collection” consists of a group of inventoried or otherwise identified cultural objects owned by:
(a) a Contracting State
(b) a regional or local authority of a Contracting State;
(c) a religious institution in a Contracting State; or
(d) an institution that is established for an essentially cultural, educational or scientific purpose in a Contracting State and is recognised in that State as serving the public interest.

Private Art Collections

According to the Dictionnaire comparé du droit du patrimoine culturel (M. Cornu, C. Wallaert, J. Fromageau) a definition of “private collection” might result from a contrario reading of the concept of “public collection” of Article 3(7).

Private Collections on UNIDROIT Work Programme

The Proposal. By Note Verbale dated 16 October 2015, the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the Rome based International Organisations transmitted to the Secretariat a document containing a proposal to insert work on legal issues related to private art collections in the Work Programme 2017-2019 of the Organisation which built upon UNIDROIT’s successful work in the cultural property field.

Giovanni Paolo Pannini – Gallery of Views of Ancient Rome – 1758

At the 95th session of the Governing Council (Rome, 18-20 May 2016), Mr Sánchez Cordero offered further explanation on the Mexican proposal regarding cultural property and private art collections and indicated that the time had come to create international norms which would allow States to choose which cultural objects from private art collections should be protected. He then suggested three elements to show that this issue relating to the protection of cultural property was private in nature: (a) the emergence of several recent cases involving privately-held cultural property; (b) recent legislation that protected and preserved national, cultural items; and (c) adjudications which involved contracts between public museums and private art collections. In concluding, Mr Sánchez Cordero further encouraged the Council to take into account Security Council Resolution 2199 and endorse the Mexican proposal.

The Governing Council decided to recommend that this topic be included in the UNIDROIT Work Programme for the 2017-2019 triennium and the General Assembly endorsed such recommendation at its 75th session (Rome, 1 December 2016) and assigned it a low level of priority.

The Conference. UNIDROIT hosted in Rome, on 16 and 17 March 2017, a conference on Private Collections: Historical and Legal Perspectives.

The Study. UNIDROIT asked Elina N. Moustaira, Professor of Comparative Law, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, to prepare a document indicating private law aspects on which UNIDROIT’s particular expertise would be of additional benefit in this field.

Study on PRIVATE ART COLLECTIONS – Annex II, Item 10(b) on the Agenda, Study for the UNIDROIT Governing Council (96th session, Rome, 10-12 May 2017)

Related Documents

Item No. 10 on the agenda: International protection of cultural property – GOVERNING COUNCIL – UNIDROIT 2017 – 96th session (Rome, 10-12 May 2017)

Item 10(b) on the Agenda – Summary Conclusions – GOVERNING COUNCIL – UNIDROIT 2017 – 96th session (Rome, 10-12 May 2017)

Selected Bibliography and Useful Documentation

J. Sànchez Cordero, The private art collectionsUnif Law Rev (2015) 20 (4): 617-625.

E. Moustaira, Art Collections, Private and Public: A Comparative Legal Study, Springer (2015).

J. H. Merryman, Public Interest in Cultural Property, California Law Review, Vol. 77 Issue 2, 1989.

Report: Protection of “incidental collections” against dispersal, Doc. 8111, Council of Europe, (May 6, 1998).

Item 7.2, Official Gazette of the Council of Europe, Conseil de l’EuropeCouncil of Europe, Council of Europe01 giu 1999