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Professor Emeritus of Etruscology and Italic Antiquities at the University of Florence and Chairman of the National Institute of Etruscan and Italic Studies Read More ...
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Encyclopedic Art Museums, Culture Property and Cosmopolitanism
James Cuno Read More ...
The Italian Experience: the Safeguarding Activity of the Soprintendenze Exportation Offices and Some Remarks on the Restitution of Works of Art
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Paesaggio e tradizioni. Un convegno sulla tutela
La Repubblica Firenze
April 24, 2010

On Saturday, 24 April, La Pietra Dialogues convened a distinguished group of international scholars, museum administrators and graduate students to explore recent developments in international law regarding the protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage with a special focus on the ownership of antiquities and the emergence of new categories of intangible cultural heritage that include landscape and lifestyle.

Art historian Bruno Santi and international legal expert Professor Francesco Francioni laid out the legal framework for the day’s discussion highlighting the issues and explaining some of the complex cases of the last years, many of which remain unresolved.

The panels were then divided into three sessions.

The first was dedicated to landscape and highlighted recent regulations that assimilate the protection of landscape to the protection of cultural goods: Amy Strecker illustrated the fundamental characteristics of the International Convention on Landscape, Emanuela Orlando outlined European regulations, and Emanuela Ignatoiu Sora treated recent cases ruled on by the European Court of Human Rights.

The second session focused on intangible cultural patrimony and included presentations by Lukas Lixinski on protections for intangible cultural heritage in international law and Adriana Bessa on lifestyle as a manifestation of culture, its protection in international law and some specific case studies.

The third and final session treated current themes in international law surrounding the ownership rights of cultural patrimony found underwater and cultural goods that are trafficked during times of war and peace. Valentina Vadi analyzed recent cases involving sunken ships and the interaction between international investment law and the protection of cultural goods. Robert Peters analyzed the theme of the restitution of cultural goods, proposing alternative schemes of international cooperation. Alessandro Chechi and Andrzeuj Jakubowski discussed recent cases of the restitution of cultural objects appropriated during colonial times.

The questions raised in the early morning panels by our legal experts were further brought into focus in the afternoon when an extraordinary trio of presentations by some of the most important museum officials in the world outlined the issues at the heart of the question: who owns cultural patrimony, raising a related question: what is the role of the museum?

James Cuno, the Director of the Chicago Art Institute, artfully exposed what proved to be the dissenting view: art is fundamentally the product of cultural hybridization and claims of national ownership are political acts. Underlining the importance of the Greek influence on ancient Roman art, Cuno argued that even art works that are most closely associated with a national tradition are truly universal, the free flow of cultural objects is important for the world, enriching the multicultural societies we all live in today and promoting international understanding.

Serena Padovani former director of the Palatine Gallery and Angelo Tartuferi the Vice Director of the Uffizi responded to Mr. Cuno’s presentation. Padovani disagreed with Cuno’s premise that art is by nature a multicultural hybrid - instead emphasizing the importance of the national and even local context to truly understanding and appreciating a piece of art. She defended Italian restrictions on the export of art objets and argued for the return of certain objects that are still held in foreign collections.

Tartuferi illustrated the complexity of the issue. He challenged the idea that Italian authorities are strictly nationalistic, citing statistics that demonstrate that most requests to Italian authorities for the travel of objects of art are granted. Few art objects are considered of enough exceptional value to merit controversy, he underlined, and most circulation occurs outside official channels. Providing one of the more controversial statements of the day - that countries can be divided into art producing and art consuming countries - Tartuferi helped set the stage for an explosive concluding round table in which these divergences were explored.

In the end, everyone agreed that the protection of cultural goods is an international and interdisciplinary task that requires the participation of art historians, jurists and curators. Common objectives, the panel concluded, should be the prevention of the illegal trafficking of cultural goods and promotion of international cooperation in this field.

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Introduction: Ethics, Culture and Law

9:30 Welcome 
Ellyn Toscano, Executive Director, New York University Florence

International Law and Culture
Francesco Francioni, Professor, European University Institute

The Legislation on Artistic Patrimony in Italy
Bruno Santi, Art Historian

Session 1: Ethics, Culture and Landscape
Moderator: Valentina Vadi
(Italy), University of Maastricht
Landscape has both tangible and intangible features. In its tangible dimension, land has always been central to international law and the territoriality of states has been one of the fundamental tenets in international law. Also the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice has dealt with the delimitation of frontiers and maritime boundaries. The intangible features of landscape, however, have not been regulated or disciplined by international law. Only recently has landscape emerged as a legal concept. This session explores the international legal instruments governing landscape and asks whether a right to landscape exists.

 10.30   The Protection of Landscape in International Law  
Amy Strecker
(Ireland), European University Institute

Cultural Landscapes and European Law
Emanuela Orlando (Italy), European University Institute 

Environmental Law, Cultural Heritage and Landscape Protection
Emanuela Ignatoiu Sora
(Romania), European University Institute

11.30   Coffee Break

Session 2: Ethics, Intangible Heritage and Law
Moderator: Robert Peters (Germany), European University Institute
Cultural heritage has been traditionally conceptualized as tangible property, including monuments, sites and works of art. However, in recent years its intangible elements have been increasingly recognized in international law. Intangible cultural heritage – or living heritage – is the mainspring of cultural identity and cultural diversity and includes oral traditions and expressions, languages, performing arts, rituals and craftsmanship. This session will discuss and critically assess the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The session will also explore selected case studies including, but not limited to, cultural rights and lifestyle.

12:00 The Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage in International Law
Lucas Lixinski (Brazil), European University Institute

Lifestyle as a Manifestation of Culture: New Trends in International Law and Some Domestic Experiences
Adriana A. Bessa da Costa Antunes Rodrigues (
Brazil), European University Institute

 12:45    Lunch Break

 Session 3: Who Owns Culture?
Moderator: Bruce Edelstein
, New York University in Florence
The destruction and looting of cultural property has been conducted throughout history and remains a severe problem in terms of war crimes, illicit trade and the removal of cultural objects during the colonial era. As the debate about ownership and commercial use of cultural property involves both the ´cultural´ and the ´property´ aspect, several questions arise, which challenge governments, courts and museums alike. This session explores the current framework of International Cultural Heritage Law, discusses the difficulties in cultural heritage disputes, including those related to underwater cultural heritage, in order to identify new approaches to current dilemmas.

2:00 The Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage in International Law: Challenges and Prospects
Valentina S. Vadi
(Italy), University of Maastricht

Beyond Restitution: Alternative Approaches to the Return of Cultural Assets
Robert Peters
(Germany), European University Institute 

Black Archaeology and Museum Policy: Ethics of International Cultural Exchange
Andrzej Jakubowski
(Poland), European University Institute

The Return of Cultural Objects Removed in Times of  Colonial Domination: The Case of the Venus of  Cyrene
Alessandro Chechi (Italy), European University Institute

3:30 Coffee Break

Keynote Address

4:00 Who Owns Antiquities: Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage
James Cuno, Director of the Art Institute of Chicago

4:30 Distinguished Remarks

The Italian Experience seen through the Activities of the Italian Export Offices 
Angelo Tartuferi
, Vice-Director of the Uffizi Gallery and Director of Palazzo Pitti’s Office for the Exportation of Objects of Art and Antiquities, Florence

The Circulation of Art Works: An Ancient Problem that is Always Contemporary
Serena Padovani,
Former Director of the Palatine Gallery, Florence

5:30 Concluding Round Table and Q&A
Moderator: Robert Peters and Valentina Vadi
With all participants, including Giovannangelo Camporeale, Professor Emeritus of Etruscology and Italic Antiquities at the University of Florence and Chairman of the National Institute of Etruscan and Italic Studies

6:30 Close

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