Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

Art Law Research Guide

This guide provides an introduction to notable resources for conducting art law research available at Georgetown University and online.

Government Entities

Professional Associations, Organizations & Institutes

  • Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA)
    Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts is a New York organization that provides "educational and legal services, advocacy and mediation to the arts community". There are lawyers for the arts (unaffiliated) in almost every state (see the National VLA Directory).
  • American Bar Association, Art & Cultural Heritage Law Committee
    Part of the ABA Section of International Law, this committee is "composed of attorneys with an interest in the field of art, cultural heritage, and cultural property law and who work in a variety of settings, including private practice, museums, government, and academia." The website includes recent issues of the committee's newsletter and drafts of its year in review. State and local bar associations may also have committees and sections devoted to art law, such as the New York State Bar Association's Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section.
  • Institute of Art and Law
    Publishers of the journal Art Antiquity and Law, the Institute of Art and Law was founded in 1995 and is an "independent organisation with the aim of providing both lawyers and non-lawyers with access to information about [art and cultural property law] in the form of seminars, publications and distance learning courses."
  • International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR)
    IFAR is a non-profit organization that "offers impartial and authoritative information on authenticity, ownership, theft, and other artistic, legal, and ethical issues concerning art objects." The website includes a few useful databases: International Cultural Property/Ownership & Export Legislation (ICPOEL), which contains laws on export and ownership of cultural property from several countries (in original language and translated); Case Law & Statutes, which contains U.S. case law and settlements organized by topic; and a catalog of catalogues raisonnes, which are comprehensive lists of an artist's works or a particular subset of an artist's works.
  • Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP)
    The LCCHP is "a nonprofit organization of lawyers, law students and interested members of the public who have joined together to promote the preservation and protection of cultural heritage resources in the United States and internationally through education and advocacy." The LCCHP publishes the Yearbook of Cultural Property Law. The organization has a student writing competition, publishes a Guide to Cultural Heritage Preservation Internships and Externships (members only), and maintains a directory of law school course offerings related to cultural heritage preservation.
  • Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE)
    SAFE is a non-profit organization that raises awareness about damage to cultural heritage from the looting and illicit trade of antiquities. The site has articles on various legal and ethical issues and provides links to useful resources online.
  • International Council of Museums (ICOM)
    ICOM is an professional organization of museums and museum professionals with 35,000 members in many countries. ICOM promulgates a Code of Ethics for Museums, publishes the Red Lists, and organizes International Museum Day, among other things.
  • American Alliance of Museums (formerly American Association of Museums)
    Professional association of museums and museum professionals. The AAM promulgates standards and best practices and has an accreditation program.
  • International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
    An association of professionals, such as historians, architects, archaeologists, and town planners, involved in the conservation and protection of cultural heritage property. ICOMOS advises the World Heritage Committee on the addition of sites to the World Heritage List. This website provides access to many ICOMOS documents, including governing documents, its newsletter, and various reports.
  • Cultural Policy Center (University of Chicago)
    This center "serves the arts and cultural community through research, teaching, and programs designed to tackle the sector’s most pressing issues from a unique interdisciplinary perspective." Its research and publications provide information on intellectual property law, art theft, and cultural heritage law.
  • Center For Art Law
    Provides access to a coherent Art Law community and a centralized resource for Art and Cultural Heritage Law. It strives to connect artists, scholars, attorneys, students and related professionals through listing online resources, publications and organizations dealing with art law, legal and non-legal.

Provenance Research

Researching the provenance of a work of art (the origin and history of ownership), is complex and requires the use of a range of resources and tools. A good starting point for understanding the process is Nancy H. Yeide, Konstantin Akinsha & Amy L. Walsh, The AAM Guide to Provenance Research (2001) (Local Academic Libraries, N3999 .Y45), the section on provenance research in Julia Courtney, The Legal Guide for Museum Professionals (2015) (Williams Library, KF4305 .L44 2015), or the International Foundation for Art Research's Provenance Guide.  Online resources for conducting provenance research include the Getty Research Institute's Provenance Research Index Databases and IFAR's collection of catalogues raisonnes.

Images of Art

The following are useful resources for locating images and information about particular works of art. Images and information about particular works of art also can be found in a number of the resources listed above and on museum websites, such as the Smithsonian Institution.

  • ARTstor
    ​This database contains over 1 million images and basic information about a work, including where it is located and what person or entity owns the copyright (useful for seeking permissions). ARTstor can be searched by keyword and browsed by geography, classification (e.g., prints, sculpture, et cetera), collection, or topic (e.g., women's studies).
  • Angelica Image Library
    A database of over 58,000 digital images and 158,000 text records from the department of Art, Music, and Theater at Georgetown University. (You must login with your Georgetown credentials to access this database.)
  • Art Resource
    Art Resource, which is also the official rights and permissions representative for a number of museums and archives, has one of the largest online databases of fine art images with over 1,000,000 images.
  • Bridgeman Images
    This website "works with museums, galleries, collections and artists to provide a central resource of fine art and archive footage for reproduction to creative professionals." The database can be searched and browsed using a variety of subjects and categories, such as geography, emotion, religion, and by historic events (see "Anniversaries").
  • Europeana
    A digital library containing over 48 million items, such as images of art, books, music, and videos, from European museums and other cultural institutions.
  • J. Paul Getty Museum
    Through its open content program, this museum makes all the digital images to which it owns the rights or that are in the public domain available for free online.
  • Google Art Project
    Images of artwork on display at some of the world's most famous museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Uffizi Gallery, and the State Hermitage Museum. The Google Art Project also enables users to virtually visit museum galleries using Google's Street View technology.