“Art” is famously difficult to define. To many artists, a definition is either a challenge or an offense. For the art trade, the working definition is pragmatic and fluid – art is a tangible object embodying the creative efforts of one or more individuals, generally in certain traditionally recognized media such as painting and sculpture, but also ceramics, textiles, and, increasingly, conceptual art and art in new media. The term “cultural property” developed from a need to recognize a broader body of objects, which includes artworks, but is not limited to artworks. Cultural property also includes antiquities, books, manuscripts, scientific collections, collections of books or archives, monuments of architecture, groups of buildings, and archeological sites. It has further expanded to include ethnological and paleontological objects.
The term “cultural property” was first used in an international instrument in the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.1 The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property2 expanded the protection afforded to cultural property to include peacetime, and identified cultural property as “property which, on religious or secular grounds, is…of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science.”
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