Who controls our cultural heritage?

Jagielska-Burduk: “The EU sees cultural heritage as a development catalyst”

Alicja Jagielska-Burduk, is a legal counsellor and head of the Centre for Cultural Heritage Protection Law at Kazimierz Wielki University, Bydgoszcz, Poland, and works for the Santander Art and Culture Law Review. This week she was one of the guest lecturers taking part in the Adeje Summer University, speaking on art, culture and the law, looking at the legal questions that arise during the marketing of art. She defended the need to protect heritage adding that in many instances, “the EU considers cultural heritage as a development catalyst”.

During her lecture she dealt with a number of legal and economic aspects related to the protection of cultural and historical artefacts, and the link between art, culture and economic development. The need to create industries and encourage education programmes related to heritage and culture was also discussed.

Jagielska-Burduk reckons the protection of art collections and historical sites is important, and European institutions can create a communal link, unifying the different ideas in the continent. At the same time though, the use of new technologies and assisting private initiatives was stressed, as was the public-private co-operation needed to set up new heritage projects.

“Of course it is important to respect the importance between public and private bodies and avoid potential conflicts. But, without doubt, the public interest takes precedence over the private, because there exists a responsibility to ensure as much of our cultural inheritance is preserved for and available to future generations.”

The movements within the international art market may see heritage art pieces held beyond public viewing, which is why she believes it is important to create co-operative programmes with private collectors. For example, she outlined how many private collectors open their doors to the public during summer months. “The dilemma then isn’t’ to choose between private and public but rather to work to help private collectors become a part of the cultural heritage team and see what we can do to encourage them to volunteer to do so”.

While there are differences in legislation regarding heritage and art in different EU countries, all share a common thread based on the rights of ownership and balances and restrictions. “The owner of the item isn’t important here – it’s irrelevant whether the work is private or public or semi-privately owned. What is of primary importance is the intention to protect it”.