Conference on Orphan Objects – Publication of the Acts

So-called orphan works, in other words cultural property with no proven provenance or with significant gaps in its provenance, are the source of many legal, ethical, archaeological and historical questions. UNIDROIT is proud to announce the publication of the contributions of the speakers at the conference held in Geneva in February 2021 on orphan objects (“Quel avenir pour les oeuvres orphelines”), organised by the University of Geneva, UNIDROIT and the Foundation Gandur pour l’Art, which sheds light on the most pressing matters surrounding the topic. This conference was held within the ongoing work on private collections undertaken by UNIDROIT

Starting with a more historical perspective, the book unfolds the 19th and 20th century fascination with antiquities, the development of the art market and yet a lack of care regarding provenance and keeping inventories. It then moves on to address the most current issues that dealers and museums are facing. Special attention has been paid to the question of authenticity, items coming from former colonies, the different definitions of provenance research from art history, history, and the art market, and the legal struggles that countries face due to a lack of uniformity.

The overall discussion shows an important ongoing project that includes different actors at international level working together towards common goals. The contributors agree in particular on the museums’ need for ethical standards requiring critical research provenance the presentation of the results of such research, and the importance of clear definitions regarding orphan works and provenance itself.

This book is therefore a compendium of ideas, problems, opinions, and efforts. It unveils the growing interest and understanding of the international community in dealing with provenance and will enrich the discussions and work of the UNIDROIT expert working group on orphan objects.

The book is available on the Helbing Lichtenhahn website.

The press release published by the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art is available on the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art website

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