Saturday, February 4, 2012

State Department Grants Seizure Immunity to Mexican Artifacts

The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs last week granted immunity from judicial seizure to artifacts on loan from Mexico.  The pieces will be part of a 2012 exhibition called "Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico," which will take place at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California and at the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas.

Under the federal statute known as Immunity from Seizure Under Judicial Process of Cultural Objects Imported for Temporary Exhibition or Display (22 USC § 2459), foreign lenders are encouraged by Congress to lend cultural objects to museums without risk that those objects will become targets of litigation while on American soil.  The statute protects imported objects determined to be (1) of cultural significance, (2) intended for temporary, nonprofit exhibition, and (3) in the national interest.

Museums importing objects for temporary display must apply for this legal protection.  The notice of immunity is then published in the Federal Register.

Xochicalco temple of the plumed serpent. Photo: Giovani V; CC.