IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca is launching a Summer School that aims to deeply analyze and compare the main legal and managerial challenges that characterise the protection and acknowledgement of contemporary art and cultural heritage in Italy and in the United States.
Since the 15th century, laws on what is now the Italian territory have regulated the preservation, movement, and destruction of things of artistic and historical interest to us. Over time, these laws have evolved into the distinct Italian Code of Cultural Property and Landscape which frames the circulation of cultural property between countries, cultural property’s preservation within and outside of museums, its valorization through digitization, and its management by public and private entities. An American museum seeking a loan of a cultural property from an Italian institution or private collection will have to navigate extensive export regulations. A museum seeking to reproduce an Italian cultural property on items in its gift shop may be advised to seek permission first from the Italian institution that holds the item, notwithstanding the expiration of copyright law in the U.S. Americans often appreciate Italian art and cultural property in the shadow of the complexity of Italian cultural property law, only realizing its importance when a looted or illicitly exported Italian cultural property must be returned from a cultural institution in the United States or when they buy a work of art or villa in Italy.
While U.S. historic preservation law may not concern itself with movable objects to as great a degree as Italy’s Code of Cultural Property and Landscape, its framework and administrative regulations set out exemplary duties and obligations for immovable sites. Even if comparatively less restrictive, U.S. historic preservation law has still provided Italy with inspiration in its regulation of national parks. But U.S. law also overwhelmingly presents an Italian audience of cultural heritage professionals with freedom. U.S. copyright law, with its fair use provisions and extensive economic rights, might be perceived as closer to Italian copyright law, which has statutory exceptions for the non-commercial reproduction of artworks by cultural heritage organizations and interacts with EU law. But Italy’s extensive moral rights framework makes an Italian understanding of the United States’ narrow moral rights law challenging, especially when Italian artists work with cultural institutions and organizations in the United States.
The preconceptions and biases concerning the Italian and U.S. art and cultural heritage legal systems on opposite sides of the Atlantic present these systems as diametrically opposed. This overwhelmingly over-simplifies each legal framework, resulting in major practical consequences. As just one example, American collectors and museums may be discouraged by an idea of ‘Italian protectionism’ and decide not to invest in Italy’s art market. An Italian artist may be intimidated by a different way of conceiving moral rights for their artwork once this work is exhibited or sold in the U.S., foreclosing opportunities with U.S. museums and cultural institutions.
Italian and United States governments do already work together through official channels on cultural heritage issues, and museums benefit from these joint initiatives. Indeed, the state of repatriation of cultural property to Italy from the United States is very advanced, and U.S. cultural heritage professionals have a sense of Italian law on the subject. Individual academics and practitioners have addressed criminal and civil liability for the theft and illicit exportation of Italian cultural property, including through work with specific federal and state Attorney Generals and prosecutors. But attention to other areas of cultural heritage law between Italy and the U.S. is lacking.
The Summer School has two main objectives:
The first is to create a program addressing cultural heritage and art law issues between Italy and the U.S. to improve and strengthen cultural ties between art and cultural heritage professionals, and, by extension, Italian and American publics, in both countries.
Second, the School aims to take a case centered approach, using the city of Lucca and its surrounding museums, cultural institutions, and heritage brands, to showcase the myriad of dilemmas and challenges for cultural heritage law to both American cultural heritage professionals unfamiliar with this cultural context and Italian cultural heritage professionals who may not have had such unprecedented access before.