Preparatory Certificate in Art Law

The course

This course is designed for overseas lawyers practising in civil and other non-common law jurisdictions who have a particular interest in the law relating to art and antiquities.

Aims of the course

This unique course will introduce overseas lawyers to the fundamental branches of English law relating to art and antiquities. The course will provide students with a firm grounding in these areas, enabling them to understand the principles applied to art and antiquities transactions throughout the common law world (including England, the United States of America, Canada, and Australia). It will introduce students to areas of law created by case law and the rule of precedent, and will pay particular attention to the locating of sources of legislation and case law. Students who successfully complete the Preparatory Certificate will be qualified to undertake the Institute of Art and Law Diploma in Art Law.


By the end of the course, students should:
i) have an understanding of the system of precedent through case law;
ii)   demonstrate a firm knowledge of the principle common law concepts and statutes relating to art and antiquities transactions;
iii) be equipped to undertake more specialised study in the common law field of the law of art and antiquities.

Qualifications required

Students should possess a nationally recognised legal qualification rendering them eligible for legal practice in the country in which it was obtained.

Competence in English Language

The course demands a firm grasp of the English language. Student will be expected to have attained a score of 6.5 in the British Council ELTS Test or 560 in the TOEFL, as evidence of having reached the necessary standard of English. Alternatively they should be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Institute of Art and Law Academic Board, proof of a standard of English equivalent to the above qualifications.

Structure of the course

The course is of six months’ duration. It consists of six modules, each covering an essential area of English Law. These are:

  • The English Legal System and Remedies
  • Criminal Law
  • Law of Tort
  • Contract
  • Sale of Goods, Agency and Auctions
  • Equity, Trusts and Charities

Course Contents

Each module will define and explain the central concepts of the area of law at issue within the context of relevant case law and statutes. It will highlight their relevance to transactions in art and antiquities. The six modules are:

English Legal System and Remedies
This module will provide an outline of the English legal system as an example of a common law system. It will explain the principle sources of English law, i.e. legislation and case law, and the relevance of these to the development of common law. It will describe the form and ethos of the English court structure and of legal procedure. Finally it will describe the remedies available at common law.

Criminal Law
Part I of this module will explain the basic concepts common to all criminal proceedings, such as the requirement to establish both mental and physical component to both crimes (the mens rea and the actus reus). Part II will explore in detail those crimes which are of direct relevance to the art and antiquities trade: theft, as defined by the Theft Act 1968; handling stolen goods; obtaining property by deception; money laundering; forgery; offences under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968; and crimes concerning obscenity and public outrage.

The Law of Tort
The law of Tort covers a range of civil wrongs, an understanding of which is essential to many aspects of art law, including authenticity and bailment (both of which are examined in detailed in the modules relating to the Diploma in Art Law).

The Law of Contract
This module will define and explain: the elements necessary for the formation of a contact at common law; the factors which affect the validity or legality of contracts; and the methods of discharging the contract.

It will further describe the law of agency. It will define the main parties to the transaction, the formation of the agency relationship and different types of agency; the rights and duties of the main parties; and the effect of breach of these relationships.

Sale and Supply of Goods and Auction Law
This will provide an in-depth study into the common law and statutory framework governing the sale and supply of goods in England and Wales, with specific reference to the Sale of Goods Act 1979. It will examine the terms of a contract of sale as imposed by legislation – time of performance and delivery, payment, title to goods, correspondence with description, quality and fitness for purpose; the effects of the contract; it will also explore the actions available to parties in case of breach or non-performance of the contract, the law relating to sales at auction will also be examined.

Equity, Trusts and Charities
Integral to the Common Law system is the co-existence of two jurisdictions: Common Law and Equity. A sound understanding of the latter, particularly of ‘Equity’s baby’ – the trust – is essential to those interested in the art law domain. Students will then experience the application of these principles specifically to the art world through a study of the statutory provisions in this area, including the Charities Act 1993 and the Museums and Galleries Act 1992. The module will also include an introduction to the equitable remedy of tracing – a technique of particular importance in the recovery of stolen art.

Learning materials

For each module, students will receive a self-study pack. These are designed to be fully comprehensive, containing all the information necessary for successful completion of the course. Each will contain a variety of materials, including:

  • Commentary on each subject area
  • Case studies defining and illustrating the main points of law
  • Relevant statutory provisions
  • Published literature on the relevant subject area
  • Series of self-assessment questions to test understanding of the law

Methods of teaching

The self-study packs will provide the principal means of tuition. In addition, there will be optional distance learning weekends, at which supplementary teaching will take place in the form of lectures and tutorials.


On-going assessment is provided by means of short assessment questions which are completed at the end of each module. Formal assessment will be by means of three pieces of written coursework, to be carried out in the student’s own time.

Cost of course

The cost of the course is £1,000 + VAT (total £1,200). Students who successfully complete the Preparatory Certificate and continue to the Diploma in Art Law will obtain a discount of 15% on the full cost of the Diploma.

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