Art law is multidisciplinary and encompasses numerous areas of law. A useful definition is found in Robert C. Lind, Robert M. Jarvis & Marilyn E. Phelan, Art and Museum Law (2002):
Art law, simply put, is the body of law, involving numerous disciplines, that protects, regulates and facilitates the creation, use and marketing of art. Art law is not a separate jurisprudence or unified legal doctrine that applies to all of the issues confronting those in the art world. Those involved in the practice of art law look to a variety of disciplines, such as intellectual property, contract, constitutional, tort, tax, commercial and international law to protect the interests of their clients. Some of these legal principles are national in scope, while others vary according to the development of state law. Increasingly, the creation, sale, collection and display of art receive specialized legal treatment by statute, ordinance, regulation, treaty or case law.
Although "art" in the broad sense of the term includes "the arts" (music, film, theater, literature, et cetera), art law as traditionally defined concerns only works of fine art and/or the visual arts. Additionally, art law is closely related to, and often overlaps with, the area known as cultural property law.
For more information on the development of art law as an area of study and practice, see Stephen E. Weil, Introduction: Some Thoughts on "Art Law," 85 Dick. L. Rev. 555 (1981).
This guide provides an introduction to notable resources for conducting art law research available at Georgetown University and online. Given the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of the field, this guide is selective and focuses on general sources on art law rather than sources on specific subjects, such as copyright or the First Amendment. For more information on those sources, see our Treatise Finders and many other research guides on those specific subjects. This guide focuses primarily on U.S. law and sources, but it also necessarily includes some foreign and international law since art law is international in scope.
Members of the Georgetown University community may seek additional assistance at the reference desk or online.
The following sources provide good introductions to, and overviews of, art law:
Art, Artifact, Architecture and Museum Law
This treatise is updated annually to include recent developments in this area of law. The topics covered are trade practices (business aspects of art), valuation and appraisal, the Uniform Commercial Code, auctions, international trade, copyright, trademark and unfair competition, artists' rights, exhibition and display, art fraud, creation of "multiples," archaeology and artifacts, historic preservation and conservation, and rights of privacy and publicity. Appendices include a number of fifty state surveys and bibliographies.
Art Law: The Guide for Collectors, Investors, Dealers, and Artists (4th ed. 2012)
This is a preeminent, two-volume practical treatise provides information on law and the business of art. It contains sections on artist-dealer relations, artwork transactions, artists' rights, collectors' interests, taxes and estate planning, and museums and multimedia and much more. Includes sample forms and agreements and bibliographies. In addition to PLI Discover Plus (the link above), this treatise is also available on Bloomberg Law.
Mastering Art Law (2015)
Call Number: KF4288 .L39 2015
This concise, introductory text provides an overview of topics including the First Amendment, publicity and privacy rights, intellectual property, taxes, authenticity and title, museum law, trade, historic preservation, and more.
Art Law in a Nutshell (5th ed. 2017)
Call Number: KF4288.Z9 D8
Straightforward and concise, this book provides basic information on the major topics in art law but does not contain sample forms or agreements. Topics covered include customs, art and war, business considerations, authentication, tax, intellectual property, freedom of expression, and moral rights.
Created June 2010 (MMS)
Updated Dec 2015 (MMS)
Updated March 2017 (AG)