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Artwatch International

James Beck, Director, ArtWatch International, (revised 12/8/1992)

  1. All works of art have the inalienable right to live an honorable and dignified existence.
  2. All works of art have the inalienable right to remain in their original abode, whenever possible. They should be permitted to rest in their acquired homes without being moved to distant places: in galleries and museums, in private collections, in houses of worship, in public spaces, under protected and controlled situations as removed as much as possible from pollution, excessive variations of climate, and all forms of degradation.
  3. Works of art recognized as of the highest order should be regarded as belonging to the entire society of the world, the 'global cultural patrimony', not to a single entity, either local, institutional, or national, although the 'owners' would continue to have full custodial responsibility.
  4. The "owners" of the paintings and sculptures as well as other art objects, hold them under an enforceable constructive trust, for the benefit of the public.
  5. In the process of conserving works of art, ample room must also be provided for the new as well as for the conservation of the old, for otherwise we would risk fossilizing ourselves to the past. Decisions affecting art held in trust should be reviewable.
  6. The most distinguished art objects shall be specially designated 'world-class masterpieces', representing, perhaps, one object in a hundred among the finest cultural treasures (somewhat in the way that buildings are selected for "landmark" status). Prior to the restoration of any in this group of masterpieces, all proposed procedures would be subject to review by a court of competent jurisdiction after hearing testimony from specialists and representatives of the culture. Second opinions and sometimes third opinions would be sought.
  7. Under no circumstances should preservation and conservation techniques be employed that are essentially experimental in nature, except where the artwork is in imminent danger. In all other cases carefully controlled, fully documented testing is a prerequisite; findings, including photographs, must be made publicly available in a timely manner and at a reasonable expense. No restoration should be undertaken for the sake of curiosity or profit. If scholarly or scientific "discoveries" result from conservation techniques, they should be regarded as fortuitous byproducts, not as the raison d'etre of the intervention, as the artwork must not be considered an 'experimental laboratory'. Since every treatment, cleaning, or restoration has the potential of negative side effects, interventions should be taken sparingly, and with reversible techniques if possible, recognizing implicitly that in the future more effective and less damaging procedures may be devised. Restoration techniques should be subject to review before any restoration is undertaken.
  8. Masterpieces of the past should not be reproduced without clearly distinguishing original from copy, so that the integrity of the original is preserved. Efforts should be made to protect artists and their estates from violations of the intentions.
  9. Unified art works should not be divided or dissected, altered or mutilated, e.g., predella panels should not be separated from their altarpiece nor should individual pages be removed from a book of drawings. In principle, subsequent transformations, adjustments, reformulations added to the original statement should be left in tact as a mark of history.
  10. The stewardship of works of art, especially masterpieces of noted historical significance, should be subjected to free and open debate, and appropriate judicial review.
  11. The examination and maintenance of works of art must be provided on a regular basis and carried out by dedicated, trained professionals, certified by national and international standards, when feasible, after any objector has been given the right to be heard.

(signed) James Beck, Director, ArtWatch International

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