Faculty Profiles

Steven Thomas

Steven Thomas

Partner, Irell & Manella LLP
Adjunct Faculty
B.A. University of Florida, 1982
J.D. Yale Law, 1985
UCLA Law faculty since 2001

LAW 301 - Art and Cultural Property Law

The broad classification of "art law," encompasses the body of law applied to fine art and artists, nationally and internationally, and often extends to cultural property, collectibles, multiples and memorabilia.  While some “art specific” laws exist at the state and federal level, the practice of art law frequently involves application of other areas of law -- contract, trust and estate, tax (and exempt organizations), property, tort, and constitutional law --  to the relationships, rights, transactions and disputes among collectors, artists, dealers, auction houses, museums and other art world participants (and also to the interactions and confrontations of the art world with various diverse groups and entities outside the art world, such as local and foreign governments, sovereign nations and indigenous people, the entertainment industry, sports franchises and social media).   
This course will provide students with a general introduction to much of the foregoing, including discussion of current and high profile art disputes and legislative proposals (such as art authentication, recovery of Nazi-looted art, smuggling and repatriation of cultural objects, "appropriation art," protecting and targeting of art and cultural property during war, art fraud and forgeries, art dealer scandals, ownership disputes, and the lack of transparency and regulation in the art market).  
Specific areas of review and analysis will include the creation, destruction, purchase and sale, auction, consignment, ownership, lending, export/import, seizure, reproduction and appropriation, and theft, restitution and recovery, of fine art and cultural property.  We will also review artists' legal rights and protections (artist-dealer relationship, First Amendment, copyright and trademark, moral rights, resale royalty rights, and government, corporate and private censorship).  
As noted, the course covers more than just "fine art;" we will also review US and international laws (cultural property laws and bi- and multi-lateral treaties and conventions) governing the possession and sale, international trade, seizure, smuggling and repatriation, of cultural property (antiquities, artifacts, and objects of historical, religious, ethnological, or archeological importance), as well as protected flora and fauna that is sometimes used in art (feathers, skeletons, ivory and wood from protected species).  We will review generally the ongoing international policy debates on matters such as who, if anyone, "owns" cultural objects and should international trade in cultural property be restricted by any nation.