Creative Equity in practice: responding to extra-legal claims for the return of Nazi looted art from UK museums

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Charlotte Woodhead

Keywords

looted art, Nazi Era, Equity, cultural objects, personal property, limitation

Abstract

Looted cultural objects taken from Jewish owners during the Nazi Era still reside in museums worldwide. The United Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel (the Panel) recommends solutions based on the moral strength of the claim where the original owner’s legal title is extinguished. Using the framework of Equity this article argues that the Panel’s work represents a modern, creative form of Equity. The Panel’s work plugs a gap left by the law, much as Equity aimed to do. Despite a wide discretion to recommend just and fair solutions, the Panel is developing settled principles rather than applying inconsistent concepts of morality. This article’s reconceptualisation of this process as firmly grounded in Equity enables the Panel’s work to be more fully appreciated as sui generis. It may also enable the Panel to serve as a model for resolving other disputes about cultural objects.

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