Chapter 1: The role of private international law in the protection of art and cultural objects
Art and cultural objects form separate classes of objects that speak to the human condition and that mirror the life conditions of individuals and communities. Humans tend to develop a deep sense of personal attachment to antiquities. Art is notoriously difficult to define. It has been called an ‘unimaginable resource’ that can, in the drive to make everything visible, extinguish sight. It is nonetheless evident that art bestows gifts on many. The free and joyous activity that produces art can transform experience or alleviate suffering. It can enhance direct, immediate experience, push us to see, as if for the first time. Its effects may provide a bulwark against an oppressive social orderor prompt us to seek co-operation. Art is particularly hard to define for purposes of interpreting relevant legislation such as export regulations and procedures. The architectural heritage may qualify to be treated as having more than commercial value, for instance, but when is a sculpture an ornament, a fixture, a fitting or an integral part of an architectural structure? ‘Cultural objects’ embody archaeological, ethnological or historical information about the creative process and the identity of the group responsible for its production. A cultural object may form part of the functions of the life process of society, and produce cultural identity at the same time. Identity may have a local or sub-state group focus, and is not reserved for the nation state (which can be defined in several different ways).