Row of art hanging in a museum with man looking at frame on the end

The Art of International Law Conference

International law has regulated art preservation and transfer for decades, but action by terrorists to wipe out religious and cultural assets has magnified the issue.

Case Western Reserve University School of Law will host a full-day conference titled “The Art of International Law” Sept. 16. The conference will provide insight into art repatriation, film industry tensions in the United States and China, and terror attacks on cultural and religious relics.

“The international community is struggling with how to deal with ISIS and al Qaeda and their actions to destroy historical, religious and cultural artistic treasures,” said Case Western Reserve School of Law Co-Dean Michael P. Scharf.

“Meanwhile, countries are locked in international disputes about repatriation of artworks, ranging from the Parthenon sculptures, known as the Elgin Marbles, to Van Gogh’s masterpiece The Night Café,” Scharf said.And the film industry, itself, represents another form of art that has been the subject of international discord, especially between the United States and China.”

The conference, in celebration of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s 100th anniversary, will feature a lunch-hour discussion with Cleveland Museum of Art Director and President William Griswold about international disputes and negotiations involving some of the treasures in the museum’s collection.

The event is free and open to the public. Continuing legal education credit is available.

Panel topics cover:

  • International Criminal Responsibility
  • Film and Culture between China and the U.S.
  • Repatriation of Cultural Properties

International law disputes concerning art have made it into some major films in the United States.

“Anyone who has seen Monuments Men with George Clooney or Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren knows that the return of stolen art is fodder for great films,” Scharf said. “Even more compelling stories at the intersection of art and international law are unfolding across the globe.”

A conference panel will examine legal, regulatory, cultural and financial underpinnings of a new trend in the film industry, said Timothy Webster, assistant professor of law and director of Asian Legal Studies. His panel features trade, intellectual property and entertainment law experts who can speak about the future of cinema in China.

“Over the past five years, several U.S. movie studios have teamed up with Chinese studios to write, produce and distribute films of interest to both American and Chinese audiences,” Webster said. “At the same time, China has also maintained a strict quota on the number of purely American films to be shown there.”

Margaret M. Miles, professor of art history and classics University of California, Irvine, will deliver a keynote speech. Other speakers include Mark Ellis, president of the International Bar Association; William Schabas, a former member of several United Nations investigative commissions; and Allan Gerson, former counsel to the U.S. Mission to the U.N, who has sued for return of The Night Café.

For further information, including the conference agenda, visit