Australian and international laws on export controls of cultural heritage

Thème de la ressource: 
Législation - International
Législation - National
Type de ressource: 
Bibliographie - Articles
Australian Institute of Criminology
Pages / Longueur: 
9 p.
Langue de publication: 

Almost every country has laws to protect its cultural heritage. But the effectiveness of these laws is significantly shaped by the pressures of internal economics and international markets, with the result that legal protection and the possibilities of legal action have very different consequences in different locations.

At root is the market inequity of so-called ‘art-supply’ countries and ‘art-market’ countries. These euphemisms are a dry economic way to describe the dynamic created by rich nations whose citizens want to own art products and poor nations whose citizens can sell items harvested from their local environments. To the latter people, pottery from Peruvian graves or sculpture from Cambodian temples are economic survival resources in the same way as forests provide timber and rivers provide fish. Selling ceramics and stone-sculpture brings cash into poor communities in need of every penny they can get.

The goods they sell are desired by another kind of society altogether, where such objects placed on display in homes and offices constitute evidence of the new owner’s taste, knowledge and wealth. This need grows from the Renaissance tradition of collecting art and antiquities as an activity of the rich and aristocratic; it has been transformed thanks to the 20th century democratisation of wealth. Today (notwithstanding local inequalities) a comparatively huge number of people can afford the pleasures and trappings of art, which still expresses a special aura of prestige.