Art-Law Centre

Actor status: 
Academic and research institutions
Official name: 
Centre du droit de l'art
Main organisation: 
University of Geneva
Postal address: 

Uni Mail - Faculty of Law
40, boulevard du Pont d'Arve
1200 Geneva 4

E-mail address: 

The Art-Law centre headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is a resaerch institution specialised in the field of art and cultural heritage law. The Centre first held its activities under the auspices of the Art-Law Foundation, founded in 1991. Since summer 2009, it has been fully integrated within the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva. 

The goal of the Art-Law Centre is to promote and coordinate research and to work on the most current questions of art law, including the illicit traffic of cultural property. To this aim, the Centre pursues teaching and research activities. Two courses taught by the Director and members of the Centre are primarily intended for Bachelor and Master of Law students from the University of Geneva. A third course is designed to train Art History students on the legal aspects of archaeology and museums. As for the Centre's research activities, they consist in organising multidisciplinary and international symposia, publications, in the supervision of doctoral theses and in participating in research programmes.


- Collaboration with UNESCO: A UNESCO Chair in "The international law of the protection of cultural heritage" has been recently established at the University of Geneva to complete and reinforce the University's existing teaching in art and cultural property law. This is the first UNESCO chair ever created in this area of expertise. The Chair was inaugurated by a conference held by Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, in November 2012. The Centre has met with other UNESCO chairs in Switzerland and participated to the conference “Lugano VI” on the support provided by UNESCO chairs to national commissions in May 2013.

- Diversified and multidisciplinary teaching: The Centre offers three teaching programs: (1) a general course for the students of the Faculty of Law on a Bachelor level and exchange students which involves both Swiss law and international law, (2) an advanced course on international law with a focus on return and restitution matters, and (3) a course specifically designed for the students of the Faculty of Arts on legal aspects of archeology and museums. Through each course, the students acquire a solid knowledge of the national and international legal tools developed to fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property. Practical examples of return or restitution claims for cultural property and their processing are illustrated during the courses. The students are encouraged to consult the “ArThemis” database on cultural property disputes (see below) for further study. Students are also provided with the most pertinent articles of the doctrine - both in French and English.

- Summer School: In June 2013, the Centre organizes a two-week summer program which concentrates exclusively on international cultural heritage law. The problem of the illicit trafficking in cultural objects will be explored during the two-day course dedicated to the theme "Trade in cultural objects and restitution" and during the course on "Armed conflict, occupation and the protection of cultural heritage". Thanks to this program, practitioners and students from around the world may benefit from the experience of the Centre and of internationally renowned experts to develop their knowledge of art law. For more information and a detailed schedule, please visit:!courses.php?menu2=CulturalHeritageLaw

- Training programs: The Centre organizes and participates in training programs for professionals. In October 2012, the Centre intervened in the training session on the fight against the illicit traffic of artworks organized by the Department of Political Science of the University of Geneva ("Lutte contre le trafic illicite des oeuvres d'art"). Another course on art law and museums will be held jointly by the Centre and ICOM Switzerland in September 2013 ("Le droit et les musées").


- Conferences: Each year, the Centre organizes international symposia on current debates in art law. For instance, the international symposium held in November 2011 focused on the "Litigation in cultural property: judicial and alternative means of international dispute resolution", and discussed the question of return and restitution from different point of views. On the occasion of the inauguration of the UNESCO Chair (see above), the Centre organized a symposium on the "International protection of cultural property: Multilateralism or bilateralism", a subject of particular importance for states and UNESCO in the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property. For a detailed program of the November 2011 conference, please see:!colloquelnt/Programmecolloque111111.pdf. For a detailed program of the November 2012 symposium, please see:

- International collaborations: As a member of the International Research Group (Groupe international de recherche - GDRI) in Cultural Heritage and Art Law, the Centre contributed to the elaboration of several important studies and reports related to the illicit traffic in cultural objects.

- Publications: The Art-Law Centre is the editor of a book series entitled "Studies in Art Law". The collection includes the proceedings of symposia organized jointly by the Centre and the Foundation as well as selected doctoral theses. To date, twenty four volumes have been published in the series. For a detailed list of the "Studies in Art Law" series, please visit