MA in Art Law and Arts Management > International protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict

International protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict

Τeaching hours and credit allocation: 14 hours, 6 credits

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the legal framework and legal problems associated with art theft and art looting. Theft and robbery of art can be lucrative business for those implicated, since the stolen art pieces can be of great economic value.  Stolen art can be resold or used for ransom. The module aims to examine the legal issues emerging in this context.

Upon completion students will be able to:

  • Study the problems of art theft, art looting, illegal trade, and transfer of art, antiquities & cultural property in general;
  • Understand the relevant international legal framework;
  • Evaluate existing mechanisms for the restitution of stolen or looted art;
  • Evaluate present mechanisms for the resolution of disputes between states, museums and individuals.


  • The problems of art theft and art looting from a historical perspective; famous cases;
  • The market for stolen art, its characteristics and the high stakes; ‘source’ and ‘market’ countries;
  • The plunder of public or private property during armed conflicts; the 1954 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict;
  • The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property;
  • The 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on the Return of Stolen and Illegally Exported Cultural Property;
  • Other important international and regional initiatives, such as the conventions of the Council of Europe (European Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property, etc.);
  • Art Loss Register and similar databases;
  • The specific case of the Nazi plundering of artworks; legal solutions and important judicial decisions;
  • Conflict of law rules that are applied to cultural property (lex situs, lex originis);
  • Defining and applying the notion of “good faith” and provenance in the context of stolen art acquisition;
  • Legal questions faced by museums, art traders and auction houses as they acquire, use, manage and sell their collections