Cultural Law as an autonomous branch of Law began to be used by the end of the 20th century to identify the set of provisions of the Legal System that referred to culture as a reality with legal content1. In these first years, the scope of the term was practically limited to the internal national sphere of each State and was mainly identified with the constitutional treatment of the culture and its derived rights.
When we visit a large museum that houses world-renowned works, it is common to find in its halls some artists who practice their skills copying the great masters. It is inevitable not to contemplate how this beautiful process develops and to pay attention to the details that the copyist decided to reproduce. This live experience makes us aware of how much it takes to undertake a painting, of the years of study needed and of the dedication that being a good artist requires.
Street Art has its roots in the American artistic revolution of the late 70s. Closely linked to graffiti, the origins of this discipline mix with a dark part of contemporary social history, which is connected to the creators’ need for reaffirming their identity, their uniqueness and their sense of belonging. It is not surprising that the first tags represented a battle cry against the pre-established system, class differences, inequalities between collectives… a way to express the discontent of the marginalised, the song of the oppressed materialised with spray in public places.
Today’s case gathers all the ingredients to become the plot of a thriller film. Back in 1954, a Gothic panel from the parish of Bulbuente in Zaragoza was restored. It depicted the Nativity of Christ in a classical composition of the Virgin with the child in her arms, surrounded by a choir of angels placed among the gaps of an arcade of columns. The “Virgin of the Angels” is an excellent work of 1390 made by Enrique de Estencop, one of the most prominent Gothic painters in the Crown of Aragon. The church was proud to show this piece. Not in vain, they had chosen this image as the primary cover of the 2018 calendar that would be distributed among the locals.
Last June 6th, 2018, a ceremony at the Embassy of Spain in the United States, in Washington, took place to return one of the incunabula copies of the Charter of Christopher Columbus, printed in 1493, stolen years before the National Library of Catalonia and found and seized by the North American authorities.
The story of this document seems a spy novel since it brings together all kinds of factors: mystery, theft, counterfeiting, smuggling, shady business, international projection, money and, above all, fascination.
Late in March 2018, Spanish Police arrested J. B. and O. C. in Barcelona for their participation in a criminal network which traded with Libyan antiquities used to finance the DAESH. It is the first police operation that demonstrates the direct financing of the terrorist group by looting archaeological pieces, although there were well-founded suspicions to believe that it was a usual source of income from the beginning of its activity all over the territories they controlled.
Unfortunately, the 1954 Hague Convention is again in full force since the recent confrontation in Syria has once again exposed the vulnerability of cultural heritage. The Convention, drafted after the devastating destructive effects of cultural goods produced during the World War II, sought to synthesise a shared desire that such losses would not recur in the future.
In the new Digital Age, we have at our disposal a multitude of communication tools and ways of sharing contents that can make us forget the horizon of legality in the use of else’s works. Everything is at hand, and it is very easy to fall into the temptation of taking advantage of others’ creations without even considering the consequences, sometimes by mistake and ignorance. While it is true that the concepts of copyright and licenses of use are widespread today, what is not so clear to many is the scope of permitted uses: where is the line between the violation of a right and the lawful use?
Guernica is one of the great masterpieces of the 20th century. The symbolic value of this piece, commissioned by the Spanish government to Pablo Picasso in 1937 to represent Spain at the Paris Universal Exhibition, surpasses the events that the painting itself was intended to convey. Josep Arnau, the General Director of Fine Arts at the time, along with other intellectuals and politicians of the moment, visited Picasso in Paris in January of 1937, and formally proposed to him the realisation of the work. The artist accepted, but by early April had not yet come to outline his work and the date of the universal exhibition was approaching.