Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series

Edited by James A.R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson

This Handbook offers a collection of original writings by leading scholars and practitioners in the exciting, rapidly developing field of cultural heritage law. The detailed essays are the product of a multi-year project of the Committee on Cultural Heritage Law of the International Law Association.

Chapter 18: Switzerland

Marc-André Renold and Beat Schönenberger

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, international economic law, trade law


Since World War II Switzerland has developed as one of the most important countries in the international art trade. For example, it is interesting to note that the auction house Christie's opened its first overseas salesroom abroad, not in New York, but in Geneva in 1968. Nowadays Switzerland is normally considered number four of the biggest players in the art business following the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Today 'Art Basel' - probably the most important art fair in the world - might be seen as the most obvious proof of Switzerland's significance in the international art market. When it comes to antiquities the 'Basel Ancient Art Fair' (BAAF) has developed a decisive role for this branch of cultural property trade. Furthermore it must be noted that in relation to its geographical size and number of inhabitants Switzerland has the highest density of museums in the world and also hosts many exceptional private collections. All this shows that Switzerland is a typical example of a market state. Owing to factors such as its geographical situation in the centre of Europe or the existence of freeports it also plays a role as a transit nation. Other factors, such as the high professional standard of its art dealers and its high quality infrastructure have made Switzerland one of the most attractive places for the art trade in general. Another important reason for this success might have also been a very liberal system of laws in relation to cultural property.

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