Accessibility statement

Art: Commodity or Valuable - LAW00061M

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Richard Nolan
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

This module addresses the inherent tensions between art as a commodity and art as a valuable, cultural treasure. The module examines taxation regimes, personal property rules and protections, questions about attribution, provenance and forgeries. Additionally, the module considers the heritage protection regime and listing, the management and protection of art and heritage institutions under English trusts law and ethical questions raised by Holocaust-tainted art and the work of the Spoliation Advisory Panel.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

This module examines the competing tensions inherent in art - sometimes viewed as a financial asset or commodity, and sometimes viewed as a valuable, a 'hands-off' treasure to be protected and enjoyed. To this end, the module examines aspects of art as a commodity: its taxation treatment, and the personal property rules and protections applying to art as an asset. Additionally, the module examines art as a valuable, a national and cultural asset and considers the management and protection of art under trusts law, heritage protection and listing processes, as well as the ethical concerns posed by Holocaust-tainted art claims and the work of the Spoliation Advisory Panel (UK). The course will be taught by a mixture of Problem Based Learning and through an inductive approach.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a deep and systematic understanding, as applicable to art and transfers of art, of personal property rules and protections under Anglo-American Law and private international law rules applying to art as a 'commodity'
  • Critically evaluate principles of negligence, attribution and provenance as they relate to art works in the art market
  • Apply a deep and systematic understanding, and ability to undertake critical analysis, of how trusts are formed, regulated and apply under English law to artworks and heritage sector institutions
  • Analyse and synthesise the main taxation issues arising in relation to art works
  • Critically evaluate advanced scholarship on the inherent conflict between art as a cultural and national asset, with art as a commodity and financial asset
  • Appreciate the ethical concerns posed by Holocaust-tainted art and the role of the Spoliation Advisory Panel (UK)
  • Synthesise complex information and analysis of legal documents and theory, in the application of legal problem-solving skills to provide practical solutions to clients seeking to achieve specific financial and legal outcomes in respect of art works
  • Apply a range of transferable personal, collaborative and practical legal skills in the context of dealing with complex disputes relating to art works

Module content

In examining the tensions inherent in the legal and art historical treatment of art as a commodity within a market, and art as a valuable treasured for its cultural worth, this module examines a broad range of relevant legal and market rules and principles. The taxation treatment of art, its regulation and protection as a form of personal property and the impact of third party disputes on art as a commodity are examined. Additionally, the module considers the management and protection of art under trusts law, heritage protection and listing processes, as well as the ethical concerns posed by Holocaust-tainted art claims and the work of the Spoliation Advisory Panel (UK).

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Client/partner advice memo
N/A 80
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation
N/A 20

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

Formative work is embedded in the Problem Based Learning nature of this module's learning process.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Client/partner advice memo
N/A 80
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation
N/A 20

Module feedback

Students will receive formative feedback on oral and written work during the module as part of the Problem Based Learning process used in this module. Individual summative feedback on assessments will also be provided.

Indicative reading

  • Hansmann & Mattei, The Functions of Trust Law: A Comparative Legal and Economic Analysis (1998) 73 New York University Law Review 434
  • John Langbein, The Contractarian Basis of Trust Law (1995) 105 Yale Law Journal 625
  • John Langbein, Secret Life of the Trust: The Trust as an Instrument of Commerce (1997) 107 Yale Law Journal 165
  • The Illicit Trade in Art and Antiquities - Janet Ulph
  • Art Law: The Guide for Collectors, Investors, Dealers and Artists - Ralph Lerner and Judith Bresler
  • Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts - Merryman, Elsen and Urice
  • Private International Law, Art and Cultural Heritage - Christa Roodt
  • Art, Cultural Heritage and the Market: Ethical and Legal Issues - Valentina Vadi, Hildegard Schneider



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