William Charron, founder of the Court of Arbitration for Art.

New Juridical Body Is Created at The Hague for Resolving Art Disputes

The Court of Arbitration for Art, or CAA, is a new juridical body that will officially launch on June 7 at The Hague via the nonprofit organization Authentication in Art and the Netherlands Arbitration Institute, or NAI, writes Laura Gilbert of the Art Newspaper. The CAA will focus exclusively on resolving conflicts surrounding art. Lawyers who are experts in areas such as fraud, contract disputes, and looted art will hear cases. 

The CAA’s founder, lawyer William Charron of the New York firm Pryor Cashman, says the forum’s main goal is to make exacting decisions on art cases that will be welcomed by the market. “Courts are reactive bodies,” said Charron. “They don’t go out and independently try to search for the truth on their own. They take the evidence that is presented by the parties and they do the best they can. The thinking with CAA is, if you have art practitioners as the deciders, they’re going to be better positioned to evaluate the evidence.” There is also hope that the tribunal will save the court’s time and money, as art lawsuits are frequently complicated and besieged by setbacks. “There is a steep learning curve for judges” when it comes to cases related to art, said Charron.

Proceedings through the CAA may take place anywhere in the world and will be conducted privately. But when a case ends, arbitrators will put forth a statement explaining their decisions. The works of art will be identified, but the names of the people involved in the suit will not. “In the art market, people prize their anonymity, but we were also concerned with . . . creating a decision-making apparatus that the market is going to respect,” Charron said.

Restitution claims that were put forward a long time after a work had been taken could be blocked if they were not “pursued with reasonable diligence . . . or where evidence has been lost due to the long passage of time.” This may prove contentious and clash with the statute of limitations to reacquire artworks stolen by the Nazis under the US Hear Act or with regulations in affairs related to cultural heritage.