Institute of Advanced Studies

Public Lecture by Professor Lyndel Prott


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Ethics and Law of Collecting Art

by Professor Lyndel V. Prott, Honorary Professor, University of Queensland

Shiva Nataraja (Guimet)Appreciation, accumulation, devastation? The love of beauty has inspired many great collections of works of art.

Source countries are today increasingly articulate about the damage inflicted on their cultural heritage by the clandestine excavation of their antiquities and the theft of their art works from museums, traditional communities and places of worship. These activities, they say, are inspired by the demand of collectors in wealthy countries. How far are these complaints justified? Is the damage as serious as they claim? What responsibility do collectors, including museums, have to prevent their interest in other cultures damaging the continuance of artistic traditions in those cultures and the exploration of ancient cultures in those lands?

This presentation discussed current international developments in the efforts to hinder damage to other cultures from the high demand for such objects and to facilitate the return of some of the objects felt to be most painfully lost to their countries of origin.

About Professor Prott

Professor Lyndel V Prott is an Honorary Professor, University of Queensland and Honorary Member of The Australian Academy of the Humanities. She is the former Head of International Standards Section, UNESCO and then Director of the Cultural Heritage Division where she was instrumental in strengthening existing international instruments and the realisation of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention.

While at The University of Sydney, with Patrick O’Keefe she prepared the first survey of export controls of cultural objects (National legal control of illicit traffic in cultural property (1983)); and a regional workshop organised with Jim Specht (Protection or Plunder? Safeguarding the future of our cultural heritage: paper of the UNESCO Regional Seminar on the Moveable Cultural Property Convention (1986)). This work culminated in her ground-breaking multi-volume research on the legal protection of cultural heritage co-authored with PJ O’Keefe (Law and the Cultural Heritage, Volume 1: Discovery and Excavation (1984) and Volume 3: Movement (1989)). Her leadership in this field was recognised with the award of the Doctor of Laws from the University of Sydney.

2 August 2011