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COSI Archive (Conversations on Social Issues)

Today's Conversation

Who Owns It? Repatriation of Art

Discussion with Melanie King, SCCC Art History Faculty

"Art and cultural property crime -- which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines -- is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running in the billions of dollars annually" (FBI).

Art forgery refers to creating and, in particular, selling works of art that are falsely attributed to be work of another, usually more famous, artist.

Art provenance research refers to learning the history of ownership of an art work from the artist's hand to the current owner. Reconstruction of a complete history of ownership for a given work can be difficult and sometimes impossible since it may require access to archives and sales records not generally open to the public. Documented evidence of provenance for an object can help to establish that it has not been altered and is not a forgery, reproduction, stolen or looted.

Cultural repatriation refers to the return of cultural objects or works of art to their country of origin. It often refers to ancient or tribal objects. 

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