ADA to the fore at UNIDROIT’s 25th anniversary conference

Joanna van der Lande, who chairs the Antiquities Dealers Association, was invited to present an extended article and speak at the conference to mark 25 years of the UNIDROIT Convention on October 8 and 9.

Also invited to speak was Martin Wilson, General Counsel to the auctioneers Phillips.

Joanna’s presentation, titled The Antiquities Trade: A reflection on the past 25 years, touched on the nature of collecting and the trade, on-going challenges between the trade, academia and other stakeholders, and how best to address some of the seemingly intractable problems we face in the future.

While welcoming her invitation to speak, she highlighted the continuing exclusion of market professionals from serious debate about antiquities at most of the major forums. Dwelling on a number of issues, she focused ultimately on the matter of orphan works, just and fair compensation, as set out in the UNESCO Convention, and meaningful engagement with the trade in the debate over how to protect archaeological sites, tackle crime and the future of collecting.

She told delegates: “The time has come to remove the trade from the sidelines – we are integral to any solution but issues of fundamental difficulty for the antiquities market do need to be tackled in order for us to really be able to move in the same direction. This would be a real legacy for UNIDROIT at 25 years.”

Mr Wilson considered existing legislation to regulate the trade and how this has built over recent years, culminating in the new EU import licensing regulations and the impending anti-money laundering enforcement.

He also emphasised the need for more effective partnerships, saying: “I realise that if you feel strongly about the repatriation of cultural property it may be very difficult to regard those who sell antiquities as potential partners rather than opponents  in the fight against the illicit trade. But the reality is that those involved in the fight against the illicit trade can only win that fight by engaging to a greater extent with the legitimate art market. And by engagement, I mean forming trusted partnerships.”

He proposed a joint forum under UNIDROIT and UNESCO “…in which the art market, law enforcement and stakeholders are able to share information  and develop effective ways of working together in the fight against the illicit trade. An initiative of this kind would, I think bring about real change and build upon the aspirations and spirit of the UNESCO and UNIDROIT conventions.”

The ADA welcomes the efforts made by UNIDROIT in engaging the industry in this way, with especial thanks to Marina Schneider of the UNIDROIT secretariat.

UNIDROIT plans to publish the speakers’ full papers in due course.