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Art Law - HOA00075I

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Michael White
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module introduces students to the field of Art Law, covering a wide range of topics within it, from intellectual property rights to the functioning of the art market, museum practice and cultural heritage protection.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The number of legal practitioners specialising in art-related matters has grown significantly in the last few decades, in relation to the expansion of the art market internationally, its increasing value and its complexity. Meanwhile, anyone involved in making, buying, selling, reproducing and displaying works of art will confront legal considerations on a day-to-day basis. While the amount of legal statute dedicated specifically to art is small, the peculiarity of the application of standard areas of law (such as property law, criminal law and contract law) to art-related contexts has led to the emergence of what has come to be known as Art Law. This module introduces students to its major considerations as a preparation for work in any part of the museum and heritage sector, art trade or legal professions.

The structure of the module is based on a notional life cycle of a work of art, beginning with the problem of the very definition of art in the first instance. It then moves on to consider issues affecting the creation of art, such as copyright and freedom of expression, to the sale of works of art, including artists’ moral rights and resale rights, the laws of agency in respect to commercial organisations, such as auction houses, and trust law in relation to museums. The later part of the module examines art crime, including fakes and forgeries, stolen art and looting, and the module concludes by investigating what, if anything, protects art from destruction.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have acquired:

  • knowledge of the major legal areas of concern to the art world.

  • an understanding of the particularity of the application of law to art-related contexts.

  • an understanding of what it means to treat works of art as property.

  • an awareness of how the art market functions.

  • an understanding of the legal and ethical obligations of museum and heritage organisations.


Task Length % of module mark
Intermediate Assignment
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Intermediate Assignment
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on assessed work within the timeframes set out by the University - please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information.

The purpose of feedback is to help you to improve your future work. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further, you are warmly encouraged to meet your Supervisor during their Office Hours.

Indicative reading

  • Felch, J., and Ralph Frammolino. Chasing Aphrodite: the Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.
  • McClean, D. The Trials of Art. London: Ridinghouse, 2007.
  • Palmer, N. Museums and the Holocaust: Law, Principles and Practice. Leicester: Institute of Art & Law, 2000.
  • Phillips, D. Exhibiting Authenticity. New York: Manchester University Press, 1997.
  • Prowda, J. B. Visual Arts and the Law: a Handbook for Professionals. Farnham: Lund Humphries, 2013.
  • Robertson, I., and Derrick Chong. The Art Business. London: Routledge, 2008.
  • Salisbury, L., and Aly Sujo. Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art. New York: Penguin Press, 2009.
  • Sax, J. L. Playing Darts with a Rembrandt: Public and Private Rights in Cultural Treasures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999.
  • Stokes, S. Art and Copyright. 3rd edition. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2021.
  • Sundara Rajan, M. T. Moral Rights: Principles, Practice and New Technology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.