Association of Dealers & Collectors of Ancient & Ethnographic Art

German Law and Preserving the Right to Collect

Fri, July 24, 2015 8:43 AM | Anonymous

Germany is planning to strictly regulate the international sale of art and artifacts deemed of significant cultural value.

Amendments to the law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage will impact the collecting of cultural objects by private individuals as well as traditional collecting fields such as books, stamps, furniture, ceramics, coins, classic cars and paintings.

Retroactively, this new law will impose due diligence guidelines impossible to follow even for the most meticulous collector.  When it comes to a dispute, the law will require the owner of a “cultural good” with a value of at least 2,500 euros to provide proof as to the item’s provenance for the past 20 years; for “archaeological cultural goods” the value is as low as 100 euros.  

This legislation further restricts art imports and exports.  Only objects accompanied by an export permit from the source country can be imported into Germany, and all art exports from Germany will require an export license even within the European Union.   

Such requirements are unrealistic since very few objects in circulation over the last century have export permits from source countries.   These provisions will make most of the objects currently traded in full accordance with the law on domestic and international art markets, illegal. 

We therefore demand a law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage that observes the following principles:

  • No retroactive effect of the law
  • No reversal of the burden of proof
  • A clear definition of the term “national cultural heritage” and a limit to claims by the state to “national cultural heritage” only
  • Free movement, unimpaired by bureaucratic obstacles, of cultural goods which are not classified as “national cultural heritage”, EU-wide, according to the free movement of goods
  • Appropriate participation by the parties representing collectors and dealers in the law-making process

Throughout history and specifically within the last three hundred years, cultural material has been collected by private individuals and public institutions providing the foundation for the great art collections treasured throughout the world. Collecting was directly responsible for preserving objects for study and appreciation, with art collectors and museums throughout the world being major sponsors for the excavation, scholarship, and preservation of ancient sites. The freedom to collect is currently being threatened by the latest drafts of the new German law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

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