Gina McColl July 21, 2012
Patrons at the Queensland Art Gallery view Mars by Velazquez from the Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.
INTERNATIONAL loans of important cultural objects will be secured by new legislation to protect them from seizure, Arts Minister Simon Crean announced as he launched the Portrait of Spain blockbuster exhibition in Brisbane last night.
''The new legislation will guarantee the return to the lender of cultural objects such as paintings, drawings, sculptures, textiles, stamps and coins, which are brought to Australia on loan for temporary public exhibition,'' Mr Crean said.
The lack of such protective laws has been cited by Australian collecting institutions, including the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, as a barrier to negotiating loans where there is potential for dispute about a work's ownership or ethics of acquisition.
Antiquities, indigenous artefacts and works expropriated from Jewish citizens by the Nazis or from Russian owners by the Soviets are among those that have become the subject of such disputes internationally.
The director of peak body the National Association for the Visual Arts, Tamara Winikoff, welcomed the proposed law.
''I know that galleries have been finding it challenging to secure works from a number of institutions overseas,'' she said. ''This doesn't mean challenges won't happen, it means that loans to Australia are secured.''
Former director of the Art Gallery of South Australia Christopher Menz said the new legislation would not override established museum codes of conduct that works with any suspicions about provenance should not be borrowed anyway.
''You should apply the same standards [that govern] what you would put in the collection to what you would borrow and display,'' he said.