IFAR - What can you own, buy, or sell legally

The International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) has stepped up in a way that should make a major contribution in helping collectors, curators, dealers, appraisers, museum directors, and the media know what can be bought, sold, or owned within the boundaries of over 100 different countries. IFAR has done a great job so far and vows to constantly update the data they have on their website which is viewable at www.ifar.org/art_law.php. In the past it was very difficult to sort through the various U.S. government websites that listed import bans, bilateral treaties, and penalties. Some other sites that provided information have been so political that it has become difficult to sort out exactly what the rules are in black and white. IFAR does not pontificate in offering the relevant legislation from country to country. It is also interesting that they have provided some case history reflecting enforcement of the laws.

Politics will always impact the legislation of cultural property and there will be swings in enforcement with each new administration in each country. Having said this it is clear that the trend is definitely moving away from an open market and towards more restriction. In this environment if you choose to be a participant you better be aware of the rules. My advice is to log on often to IFAR.org to stay current.

IFAR also offers an authentication service, which is something as a professional I have never been very enthusiastic in exploring. As a non profit, it would be impossible for them to have in-house experts in all the fields that they service. That to me means that at least some outsourcing must be contracted to meet the obligations and demands of their clientele. With the internet it is easier now and probably cheaper to find and check out your own experts. Admittedly, I have not evaluated IFAR's price structure in this area. It would, therefore, be prudent to evaluate and compare all your resources before proceeding.

Usually requests for authentication or consulting services are made after the fact when the object has already been purchased and a problem has occurred. Maybe IFAR.s website will motivate people to do their homework before the problem occurs saving money and aggravation for all. Regardless IFAR should get kudos for this free resource.