First session of the UNIDROIT Working Group on the Private Art Collections – Orphan Objects Project

On 2 and 3 May 2024, the first session of the Working Group on the Private Art Collections – Orphan Objects Project was held in hybrid format at the seat of UNIDROIT in Rome.  The project is undertaken, as part of Unidroit’s Work Programme for the triennial period 2023-2025, in partnership with the Art-Law Centre of the University of Geneva (ALC) and the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art (FGA).

The project aims at developing an international instrument to further specify criteria for “satisfactory” provenance of cultural objects lacking provenance and/or presenting gaps in their provenance to prevent them from disappearing to the detriment of the history of art, science, and knowledge. The targeted audience of the future instrument encompasses a diverse array of stakeholders involved in the acquisition, circulation, and preservation of cultural artifacts, including but not limited to museum institutions, art collectors, dealers, auction houses, legal practitioners, and scholars in the field of cultural heritage.

During the first session, the Working Group considered matters raised in an Issues Paper prepared by the UNIDROIT Secretariat. In particular, participants discussed: (i) the suitability of the term “orphan objects”; (ii) the objectives and problems posed by orphan objects, (iii) three case studies selected for their representativeness and which illustrate the difficulties encountered with orphan objects, (iv) the development of guidelines and procedure, and (v) the link between due diligence and provenance based on Article 4 of the UNIDROIT 1995 Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported  Cultural Objects.

A report of the first session of the Working Group will be published in the coming weeks. The second session of the Working Group is planned to take place in October 2024. More information about the Private Art Collections Project can be found on the UNIDROIT website.

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