Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It doesn't matter how long ago it was stolen, French museum property is "inalienable"

"[B]ased on our legal knowledge (and well founded), the [Nicolas Tournier painting of The Carrying of the Cross] is indeed, in principle, the property of the Musée des Augustins. Works in French public collections are inalienable and imprescriptible, a fact we have always fought for here. This means that an object which enters a museum cannot be taken away, in any way, forever in time, which implies that although it may have disappeared for almost two hundred years, it will always belong to the establishment."

- The Art Tribune, commenting on the case of the disputed Baroque painting by Nicolas Tournier which is pitting London dealer Mark Weiss against the French Ministry of Culture.

If it is indeed true that works in French public collections are not subject to conventional statutes of limitations (and if found in the trade cannot therefore be legally transacted) then this increases the need to incorporate data about missing museum objects into due diligence databases. If the French Ministry of Culture places no time limitations on objects missing from its museums, then due diligence providers should do likewise.

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