The value of cultural heritage is inherently connected with the characteristic of being public.

Although it has been posited in aesthetic theory that there is no such thing as ‘private art’, ownership structures for cultural property indicate tensions between notions of public and private in the cultural heritage space and accompanying challenges of identifying and agreeing upon what values are indeed the public ones at the heart of the notion of cultural heritage.

Notwithstanding this tension and accompanying challenges, it is increasingly evident that disagreement, dissent, and contestation can generate corrections in both legal and market infrastructures, as well as important considerations within the policy-making and regulatory process. The ‘public trust’ mirrors the theme of ‘disagreement’. The former is inherent in the judgment of state actors: the public must have confidence that administrative agencies, government offices, courts and even civil servants tasked with applying and interpreting laws protecting and valorizing art and cultural heritage are, in fact, acting for the public’s benefit.

Phenomena of dispute and crises offer valuable knowledge about citizens’ interests in (alternative) ways to govern cultural heritage. Moreover, crises and these disputes often constitute or provide per se (bottom-up) governance structures for such heritage. In both cases, a demand for cultural policy and regulation emerges, and the ways in which this exchange between communities and legislators might take place can be diverse – including some regulatory, administrative, or managerial interventions. These phenomena deserve the attention of both practitioners and legislators. Public crises, at the global and local level, may provide solutions, both legal and extra-legal, for cultural heritage.

This forum builds on last year’s interest group discussions to further a multidisciplinary debate that has already had the opportunity to develop over these months. The participants will examine cases of controversy and active citizenship as well as instances of the co-design of improved legal infrastructures. The ultimate goal of this appointment is to contribute to the definition of a co-edited volume on the issues described above in the broader context of Art, Heritage, Law, and Economics


Lorenzo Casini; Anna Pirri Valentini and Felicia Caponigri

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