The Restitution, Repatriation, and Return of Cultural Objects: The Parthenon Debate

Kevin P Ray has written a lucid and timely analysis of the knotty problems facing any attempt to achieve a legal resolution of the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles: which court would be competent to hear a case about an alleged transgression, the details of which are in dispute, by Lord Elgin of the terms of a licence, the precise status of which is unclear, under the legal system of a country, the Ottoman Empire, which no longer exists, brought two centuries later by a national state, Greece, which first came into being only at a later date, and if such a court could be found, how would it enforce its judgement? 

 

He considers The Hague Convention (there was no armed conflict involved),  the UNESCO Convention (not retrospective) and the UNIDROIT Convention (the UK is not a signatory).  He suggests the need for the articulation of a "new rule of customary international law", which does not currently exist, relying on these conventions together with the ECHR and the 1993 EU Directive on the Return of Cultural Objects, but points out the limitations even of this.

 

He concludes by suggesting that the situation may continue to be intractable unless the differing parties are prepared to move the question on from recrimination and disputes over title and ownership, with absolute positions and national and political emotions set aside and a new emphasis on flexibility, negotiation and mutual benefit.  

 

Original links  to Kevin Ray's article on the Parthenon sculptures debate: Part I and Part II

Kevin P RayKevin Ray is Of Counsel in the Chicago office of Greenberg Traurig LLP.  He focuses his practice in the areas of art and cultural heritage law and financial services (lending transactions and restructuring/insolvency matters).  He represents and advises artists, art galleries, art collectors, museums and cultural institutions in a variety of transactions, including consignments, questions of title, provenance, and compliance with national and international law.  He advises lenders and debtors on issues unique to art, antiquities and other cultural property in a variety of lending and commercial transactions.  Prior to practicing law, Kevin was director of rare books, manuscripts and art collections at Washington University in St. Louis and taught at the Washington University School of Art.

Kevin is the author of Art and Cultural Property (forthcoming, American Bar Association Press, 2016), is a frequent speaker and writer on art and cultural heritage law issues, and is a frequent contributor to Greenberg Traurig's art and cultural property lawblog, Cultural Assets (http://www.gtlaw-culturalassets.com/ )