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‘Donor Restrictions on Galleries and Museums’ – Online Access to Special Issue of Art Antiquity and Law, April 2023

Posted on    by Elena Cooper
BlogLegal History and Cultural Memory

‘Donor Restrictions on Galleries and Museums’ – Online Access to Special Issue of Art Antiquity and Law, April 2023

By 18 April 2024April 26th, 2024No Comments

As previously posted on the CREATe blog, April 2023 saw the publication of a Special Issue of Art Antiquity and Law, the journal of the Institute of Art and Law, entitled ‘Donor Restrictions on Galleries and Museums’. CREATe is delighted to announce that, with the express agreement of the Institute of Art and Law, we can now provide free access to this Special Issue from the CREATe website including full colour images (subject to the copyright notice below).

Front cover of the Special Issue featuring a black title on a red background 'Art Antiquity and Law', followed by a reproduction of James Abbott McNeill Whistler's (1834-1903), The Black Hat – Miss Rosalind Birnie Philip, 1900-1902, oil on canvas.

Click on the cover to access the Special Issue.

The Special Issue was guest edited by Dr Elena Cooper (Senior Research Fellow, CREATe) and Steph Scholten (Director of The Hunterian, Glasgow) under the guidance of the journal’s editor Ruth Redmond-Cooper (also Head of Publications, and co-founder of the Institute of Art and law). The Special Issue will be celebrated this month, at an event to be held in The Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow on Thursday 18th April, 5.30pm to 6.30pm.

The Special Issue considers the legal, ethical and practical issues raised by restrictions imposed by donors of art works on galleries and museums, e.g. stipulations that works cannot be lent, or are to be displayed in particular ways. For instance, The Hunterian, part of the University of Glasgow, holds one of the largest collections of the work of the artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) in the world, but many of the works cannot leave the University, due to the restrictions imposed by the donor: Whistler’s executrix, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958).

The Special Issue comprises an editorial introduction by Cooper and Scholten, followed by four articles: two general case studies of donor restrictions at particular collections (by Dr Alicia Hughes and Duncan Dornan), one contextualising article (by Dr Grischka Petri) and, finally, a legal reappraisal of a specific restriction on the exhibition of a particular painting: Portrait of Lady Eden by Whistler (by Dr Elena Cooper).

In ‘A scheme of My Protection’: Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) and the History of the James McNeill and Beatrix Whistler Collection at the University of Glasgow, the art historian Alicia Hughes (a Project Curator at the British Museum and formerly Curatorial Assistant at The Hunterian for Whistler: Art and Legacy) draws on extensive original archival work in providing the first in-depth account of the totality of Birnie Philip’s donations to the University of Glasgow. Hughes’ article is the first to bring to the fore a voice for Birnie Philip, that is distinct from, and sometimes at odds with, Whistler’s, and this article will undoubtedly become a central reference-point for future understanding of Birnie Philip’s gifts to the University.

Legacy of the Burrell Lending CodeDuncan Dornan (Head of Museums and Collections, Glasgow Life) draws on his extensive experience in administering the recently reopened Burrell Collection, Glasgow, comprising a diverse array of cultural objects, including paintings by old Masters and French Impressionists, stained glass, arms and armour, fine tapestries and the most significant UK holding of Chinese Art. When the collection was gifted to the City of Glasgow in 1944 by the shipping magnate Sir William Burrell and his wife Lady Constance Burrell, it was one of the largest, if not the largest, single donation of a collection to a public body of its time. Dornan’s article outlines the process by which the City of Glasgow has, in more recent times, successfully taken legal steps to lift lending restrictions for that collection: first in 1997 and then in 2013.

These case studies are contextualised by the article by the art historian and lawyer Dr Grischka Petri (Research Associate, Department of Intellectual Property Rights, Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastructure, Karlsruhe): An Archaeology of Intentions? The Rosalind Birnie Philip Gift at the University of Glasgow before a Horizon of Comparative Analysis from Turner to Barnes.

Petri uses the Whistler Collection at the University of Glasgow as a way into a comparative consideration of a number of other examples internationally where museums have been, and in some cases still are, dealing with restrictions, including The Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., The Frick Collection, New York, The Barnes Foundation,  Philadelphia. The wide-view lens of Petri’s article makes clear that it is not unusual for donations to be subject to restrictions. Petri also considers the bequest by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) of works to the British nation, which specified how certain of his works were to be hung. Amongst other things, Petri asks whether restrictions imposed by artists, should carry more moral weight than those stipulated by mere collectors.

Finally, Elena Cooper revisits the Whistler v Eden legal case decided in Paris in 1897 and the conclusions drawn by first, Birnie Phillip and later, The Hunterian, never to exhibit Whistler’s Portrait of Lady Eden in perpetuity. Combining original archival work, with a re-reading of lesser-known passages of Whistler v Eden placed in the context of legal historical change, Cooper argues for a ‘more balanced interpretation’ by The Hunterian today as regards the restriction on the exhibition of Portrait of Lady Eden. Cooper’s article demonstrates the practical and real-world consequences of careful scholarly work: insights from legal history allow us to reappraise the way we understand donor intentions today. Cooper’s analysis supports the relaxing of a restriction through the way it is interpreted, without the need for lengthy and expensive legal procedures for a restriction’s formal variation. We are delighted that Portrait of Lady Eden will be brought out of store, into the main gallery space, for the event in The Hunterian art Gallery this April.

The Art Antiquity and Law Special Issue: Donor Restrictions on Galleries and Museums, was published in April 2023, as Volume XXVIII Issue 1. It can be accessed through Hein online, or now, for free here, through the CREATe website but subject to the following copyright notice:

This issue of the quarterly journal Art Antiquity and Law is the copyright of the Institute of Art and Law and the authors of the articles contained herein. It is being licensed for download from the CREATe website on the strict undertaking that it will not be reproduced in any form or for any purpose, save as permitted by copyright law.

When quoting from any of the works contained herein, acknowledgment of the source should be made as follows: (2023) XXVIII Art Antiquity and Law Special Issue: Donor Restrictions on Galleries and Museums, guest-edited by Elena Cooper and Steph Scholten.

Except as provided for by copyright law, no further copying, storage or distribution (including by email) is permitted without the consent of the copyright holder(s). The authors also have moral rights in the works and users may not cause or permit the distortion, mutilation or other modification of the work or any derogatory treatment of it which would be prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author. 

Subscriptions (both hard copy and online) to Art Antiquity and Law are available at

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