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Art and Cultural Property

Members of Wilberforce Chambers’ Art & Cultural Property Group have a wide range of expertise in matters relating to cultural property, in both a contentious and non-contentious context. Highlights have included the following:


  • Accidia Foundation v Simon S. Dickinson. Dispute over the commission paid to an art dealer.
  • Re Claim for Beaching a Boat. Claim before the Spoliation Panel for the restitution of a Constable in the collection of the Tate Gallery.
  • Schoyen v UCL. A case concerning disputed antiquities.
  • Trustees of the Natural History Museum v Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. A dispute about a collection of human remains in the custody of the Natural History Museum.
  • Re P L Travers WT. Taxation of film and stage royalties where the rights were held on discretionary trusts.
  • Sotheby’s, Italian Ministry of Culture and others v Mazzarelli. Interpleader concerning concerning disputed ownership of allegedly stolen medieval Italian religious and cultural manuscripts.
  • Re: a Shopping Centre. Rights to remove a Barbara Hepworth sculpture from a shopping centre.

Advice and dispute resolution

  • Acting for National Gallery and Tate Gallery in various restitution claims
  • Advising on claims made by the estate of a famous photographer for the return of photographs used in a documentary.
  • Advising on title dispute over a Benin bronze sculpture.
  • Advising in private dispute concerning a Roman antiquity.
  • Advising HMRC on the tax implications of the acquisition by the National Gallery of Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks.
  • Advising estate of well-known artist on tax treatment of sales of paintings after his death.
  • Appearing as an expert witness on English law on gifts of chattels in an arbitration over the donation of paintings by Lord Beaverbrook to the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
  • Advising DCMS and the National Museum Directors’ Conference on the restrictions imposed by government accounting rules on expenditure on acquisitions from museum reserves.
  • Advising a national museum on its relations with its related charitable “Friends” trust.
  • Advising a London Borough on the terms on which it holds a valuable art collection, and whether it could sell it off.
  • Advising wealthy individual on the terms of an educational charity he wishes to set up to own his country house and art collection after his death.
  • Advising British Film Institute on the terms of their constitution.
  • Representing Lucian Freud’s executors in dispute over the secret trust in his will.
  • Acting in a dispute about failure to comply with an artist’s contractual obligation to refabricate a damaged item in a series of artworks, involving issues of art market practice and valuation.
  • Acting in dispute regarding ownership rights in relation to significant 17th century (post-Ming, pre-Qing dynasty) Chinese porcelain collection.
  • Advising and acting for London art dealer on lien over a Rembrandt oil painting.
  • Advising the National Science Museum on the return of a forgotten exhibit, a large early 20th Century Steam Engine, loaned to another museum and dismantled and then lost.
  • Advising on treasure trove/restitution in the context of an expedition to recover treasure from a sunken Spanish galleon.
  • Advising in a case in which a Frank Auerbach had been left by a bottlebank in a block of flats and then handed in to the police by the finder who wished to claim it as his own.