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2011 Legal Issues in Museums Conference

The annual conference on legal problems in museum administration took place on March 22-24, 2011. It was organized by the American Law Institute-American Bar Association and sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the American Association of Museums.

The Art Newspaper provides a good overview of several legal issues addressed at the conference.

First, problem gifts are seen as a real problem. Even in these financially desperate times, museums must be careful what kinds of gifts they accept, and what donors they accept gifts from. Art Media Agency reported one New York-based lawyer as recommending that museums only accept gifts if the donors are the sole owners of the donation. “If a museum accepts, for example, a minority share in a business, the situation could soon become financially risky.”

Another issue was how museums should negotiate artists’ rights. “Merchandising is a problem.” It is reported that almost all museums still accept that an artist owns the copyright after the work is sold to the museum.

The attendees of the event also expressed concern over Russian loans. A July 2010 decision ordering Russia to turn over to turn over a collection of manuscripts has had a negative impact on loans coming from Russia. According to Laura Gilbert, LACMA has recently asked the plaintiffs in the case to “stipulate that it will not seize any of the 37 art objects the museum still hopes Russia will lend for its Gifts of the Sultan exhibition opening June 5.”

The Art Newspaper also mentions the issues of joint purchase agreements of collection items and third party rentals of museum spaces. Read the article at The Art Newspaper

Information about the program is available at the ALI-ABA website