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 20: United Kingdom

Kevin Chamberlain and Kristin Hausler

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


The United Kingdom (the 'UK') has a long established art market tradition. In addition to housing an abundance of art galleries, London is also the birthplace of major auction houses founded in the eighteenth century. The British art market has developed consistently since then to respond in part to the cultural material being imported into the UK and then offered for sale. Constant interest from individual collectors and collecting institutions has ensured the continuous success of the British art market. It is fair to say that, while the UK has developed particularly protective export criteria to retain cultural material on its soil, it has until recently been rather lenient towards the import of such cultural items. The UK has not entered into any bilateral agreements on the protection of cultural material but it is a party to international agreements, such as the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970 UNESCO Convention), and regional agreements, including European Union and Council of Europe instruments. The UK also has other international obligations, such as those stemming from United Nations ('UN') and European Union ('EU') sanctions schemes. In addition to having its own export and import controls, the UK is also a party to a number of multilateral agreements that are relevant for the cross-border movement of cultural material.

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