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Art Law - LAW00038H

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Emma Waring
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21 to Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

Art law focuses on the interaction of numerous legal disciplines in protecting, regulating and facilitating the creation, use and marketing of art. The focus of the module will be on works of fine art and/or the visual arts with some references to cultural property law.

During the module we will draw selectively on aspects of various legal areas including: property, contract, commercial, intellectual property and international law. Because the trade in art and antiquities is a global one, the module makes reference to both domestic legal principles as well as to American and international rules laid down by bodies such as UNESCO. Broadly speaking, the module will consider a variety of legal issues raised by the global trade in art, such as: regulation of artistic expression; moral rights and droit de suite; auctions; authenticity; questions of title and forgeries; cultural property; recovery of stolen art; museum acquisitions and disposals; and the repatriation of cultural objects.

The module will frequently consider contemporary art controversies as a means of examining these broader issues. Guest speakers will also be invited where relevant. Requirements for all students include: regular attendance at plenary sessions; active participation in class discussions based on pre-assigned reading; a newspaper editorial on an assigned topic to be debated in class; and coursework. A class field trip will be arranged (e.g. in 2013-2014 we went to London to visit the Art Loss Register, the British Museum, an exhibition on destroying artwork at Tate Britain and met with the legal team at the Tate).

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Identify the main ways in which law shapes and constrains the global trade in art.
  • Explain some of the institutions and procedures involved in trading in art in the UK with an appreciation of the relevant international conventions and the international context of enforcement.
  • Analyse strategies and challenges posed by the protection of art.
  • Reflect on the functions and objectives of art law and cultural property law.
  • Synthesise and critically analyse a range of sources related to art law to develop further knowledge, construct arguments, draw conclusions supported by appropriate authority, and evaluate the merits of alternative arguments


Task Length % of module mark
Departmental - aural assessment
Participation in class debates
N/A 15
Written Coursework
N/A 55
Written editorial
N/A 15
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
N/A 15

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Written Coursework
N/A 55

Module feedback

Students will receive oral feedback throughout the course in relation to participation, individual written feedback on coursework, oral presentation and the editorial will be provided by the module leaders.

Indicative reading

  • Art Law - Ralph Lerner & Judith Bressler (2013)
  • Cultural Heritage Law - James Nafziger (2012)
  • Visual Arts and the Law - Judith Prowda (2013)
  • Art Law - Michael Jones (2016)
  • Playing Darts with a Rembrandt: Public and Private Rights in Cultural Treasures (2001)
  • The Story of Art - E H Gombrich (16th ed 2007)
  • Moral Rights: Principles, Practice and New Technology - Mira T Sundara Rajan (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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students