Historical Art Ownership

THW prohibit private ownership of art deemed to be culturally or historically significant.

Saint Mary's University vs. University of Calgary

I invite Joey Karam to deliver his Government’s opening remarks.
Thanks, Tal. Art is inseparable from the context in which it is found, we cannot look at the Renaissance period without referring to the art from the period.
It is in that principle idea that we propose the prohibition of private ownership of art that is either culturally or historically significant.
Before we continue into our main constructive, what are we centering this debate around? This House is the IAA, cultural and historical art, we will consider as art that helps provide a contextualisation of the people or the period during which it was created.
Our main constructive point will be centering around, how we interact with art in our society. The two main ways we proceed with this interaction.
1. to understand the context of the period surrounding the art or
2. To understand the context of the person behind the art.
1. Discovering art from a certain time period or from a certain culture can provide us with more knowledge pertaining to the context.
Continuing with this example of Renaissance art, the art in the period was inspired by the religious society surrounding the art.
In the modern day, we associate religion to this time period due to the art of the time, pieces such as the Last Supper or the Virgin on the rocks by Leonardo da Vinci allow us to clearly establish this association, these pieces helped define the period in which they were created
What does this matter in the way of prohibiting private ownership of art?
If say the last supper was hidden in someone’s personal gallery along with the remainder of the defining pieces from the period, there would be no means for us to define what values exist in the period.
2. Art also allows us to be capable of defining the people within the period as well, it is not associated solely to paintings, of course, literature from a given period allows us to understand the authors of the period and allows us to understand potential counter-culture
Although they are more recent,
Examples such as George Orwell and Margaret Atwood come to mind in the publications of pieces that allow us to peer into their personal values and allows us to peer into potential problems of a past time.
Yet again these forms of art would not be able to prosper or be known if they were to be kept hidden, these counter-culturalist forms of art would not be able to exist let alone prosper if not for their being public.
I will admit I have not been completely honest, there is, in fact, a third way in which we see the enjoyment of art take place, however, Malik will be elaborating on that point later on.
Thank you Joey. I now invite Adrian to deliver the Opening Opposition remarks.
Thank you, Tal. To start, I must point out that the government has provided no insight as to what prohibiting “culturally or historically significant” works of art looks like.
How do we “prohibit” this ownership? Does the government intend to go into the homes of private art collectors and seize pieces they feel are important? Or do they simply intend to prohibit all future sales of significant art to private collectors?
We tell you that the former is a gross violation of private property rights, and going into places willy-nilly to seize things that might not be there is a waste of effort as well as an affront to one’s right to privacy and property.
The latter would be ineffectual for actually safeguarding access to art, so we do not believe it is worth the effort. However, it does set a harmful precedent as we will say in our constructive, all for a fake gain that side government is merely imagining.
Side government has also failed to define what “private” ownership is. What if a private owner allows viewings of their collections? Does that count? Do Non-museum institutions like churches count as private owners? We do not know, for we are not told.
Before we delve into our constructive, I will quickly rebut the core argument that side government has brought forth. They say that private ownership of art should be prohibited because they are required for us to understand the contexts of the period of each work’s creation.
We say to you that for a huge majority of works that we consider to be significant, reproductions of the work already exist, and these may be studied in schools and museums all over the world. The owners of the original works do not try to halt this, so this is not threatened.
We believe that art and cultural works have much merit in our society, yet we do not prohibit private ownership of such. Do we disallow people from owning copies of “Nineteen-Eighty-Four” or “The Handmaid’s Tale” in their homes because they are important? Certainly not!
“But what of important pieces that currently hide in art galleries?” side government may ask. As far as the wider society is concerned, these works do not exist. Should we justify going into private galleries all over the world to seize pieces of art that might not be there?
We do not buy into the belief that “enriching” the greater society is worth essentially pilfering people’s private properties, as well as violating their privacy by searching their lands. Our intellectual pursuits should not be supported by uncivilized methods of plundering.
The crusade government is proposing where we violate countless peoples’ property and privacy rights when we haven’t the slightest clue where to look will simply cause outrage among the learned intellectuals, and for little gain as we doubt the effectiveness of these missions.
We doubt its effectiveness because again, if government says the art stays in these collections, we cannot know about them. If we do not know about them, how can we effectively know where to look for them, and where to seize them? This initiative is more trouble than it’s worth.
As for our constructive, I will be bringing to you two points, and my partner Candace will bring you more. For now, I tell you:
1. The idea of private collections drives the creation of much art
2. Private collections prevent the wholesale destruction of art
Firstly, we tell you that the fact that people like to collect art for their private collections is the reason lots of art we consider important exist in the first place. For almost all of history, and to some extent, today, artists depend on the generosity of patrons.
Patrons of the Arts would be wealthy individuals who sought to enrich their lives with beautiful art, and thus they support the artists willing to create these pieces from their vision. Artists need income to live too, and such they sell their services to powerful people.
While circumstances may be different today, we tell you that the core principle is the same: artists cannot afford to be fully public. As a part of the modern economy they must produce what society wants (their art) and what held true for the past still does so now.
The prohibition of private art ownership will mean that the entirety of the arts “industry” will be fully public, with no room for these private exchanges to occur. If a modern artist created something significant, under this motion they would be unable to sell their work.
We believe that people should be entitled to the fruits of their work. This means artists should sell to who they please, and this means that works that have been rightfully purchased by individuals should not be seized from them, as by right, it is theirs.
Prohibiting the private ownership of culturally significant art is an injustice to the collectors who have safeguarded these works, as well as current and future artists who will be harmed by this precedence. However, we are not finished.
2. Allow us to explain our bold claim that private collection prevents wholesale destruction. Under the government’s motion, all of the important works of art would be centralized in “public” areas such as museums or other notable storage facilities. This is a bad idea.
Under the status quo, the art is dispersed in areas all over the world, as opposed to centralized. We say that this is better in ensuring that the art remains safe from disaster or theft. If all the art were in one place, and a disaster hits that place, all the art is destroyed.
However, under status quo, if a disaster hits an area, it would have to successfully strike not just the public place, but also each and every place where there is a collection. The dispersion of art makes it safer in the long run. To this end, we offer a specific example.
During the Fall of France in World War II, the German occupiers quickly moved to seize the art in museums such as the Louvre. However, they had to expend additional effort to seize the pieces in private collections all over France.
This extra effort meant attempts could be made by the French to stow away and hide this art before the Nazis could get their hands on it. As a result, many of the pieces that might have been seized or destroyed were spared this fate.
The same mechanism of art being hidden away that we tell you makes this motion difficult to execute also plays into the strength of status quo. This art in private collections is easier and quicker to hide from belligerent forces, and thus we consider this to be safer.
When all this art is difficult to track, we say that this advantages the longevity of the art. If side government cannot hunt down all these pieces to take them, how can a natural disaster claim them all at once? How can an enemy steal or destroy them effectively?
To put this in the modern context, we believe that the status quo does a better job of making sure freak accidents such as natural disasters or military invasion have less effect on the destruction of important art.
By keeping the originals in safe hiding in these collections, they can easily be reproduced so none of the cultural value is lost. At the same time, when the originals are in hiding they are at less risk of being destroyed, ensuring the safety of our cultural heritage.
We agree with side government that culturally and historically significant works of art are important to us. However, we differ in while they wish to seize them from their rightful owners, we wish to safeguard them so that they may continue to enlighten future ages.
What have we brought today? We have demonstrated why government’s proposition is a large undertaking with great difficulties not worth the effort. We have also proven that the status quo of private art collections is better for promoting the production of art, and its safety.
It is for these reasons that we on the opposition bench are extremely adamant to see this motion fall, and as such, we beg to oppose.
Thank you Adrian. I now invite Malik to present the Government’s closing remarks.
Thank you Tal, side goverment believes that the opposition has failed to adequately refute the arguments brought forward by my partner and that our strongest arguments still stand
I will be going into extensive refutation of the two main brought forward by the opposition, as well the idea that our model is flawed. I will then be rebuilding my partner’s arguments and finally talk about the fact that art that is publically owned can be put in better context.
This allows it to be better appreciated by all levels of society, as the owners may not always be aware of the significance of the art that they own.
Firstly, our model was meant to argue the idea of govermnent ownership of culturally significant works of art on priciple, and not go into the specifics of how that art would be aquired or pay for, mearely debate the merit of public vs. private ownership
On that note, side opposition argued most of their refutation to my partner’s points based on the idea that spreading art through countless collectors spread around the globe would reduce the risk of it being lost all at once, as was the case during the second world war.
What side opposition conveniently ignored, however, was that the Nazi’s did not destroy the art, but rather, placed it in the private hands of collectors high within the party. To this day, much of this art remains in the private hands of people
who sometimes are not even aware of its value. In fact we believe that this example brought forward by the opposition is a strong argument for our case.
We also believe that the fear of the wholesale destruction of art is rather overblown, not only do governments have far more resources at their disposal than private collectors, but most art that is destroyed is the result of loss by private collectors.
Private collectors see the art as an investment, rather than the cultural heritage of the nation, and that is often reflected in the ways they treat it, and are often willing to trade it away to foreign investors.
As for the idea that public ownership would lead to the end of the creation of new art, firstly, the public sector is one of the largest commissioners of works of art, and second, art not deemed culturally significant will still be traded between patrons of the arts.
Culturally and historically significant art is but a very small percentage of overall art traded, and it often takes hundreds of years for it to be deemed so.
Now into my constructive, publically owned can often be put into context for the people of the country to which it is culturally significant. Art is often an important aspect of the culture of a nation state, and private ownership can often be a serious detriment to this.
The causes for this are twofold. Firstly private owners, in many cases investors, use art as a way to store money without facing the risks of inflation or taxes. This means that they have little interest in displaying the art or putting it in its proper cultural context.
In fact displaying the art, and putting it in context would only put the investment at risk at a cost to the investor.
Secondly, the investment nature of private ownership means that it is often sold to other investors in other nation, ripping the work from its cultural setting and essentially theiving the local culture from one of its important relics.
Art is often a central aspect of a nation’s culture, and having it hidden away, or sold off to private investors weakens the culture and kills the richness of local culture in favour of a few private investors.
What this debate comes down to is the preservation of local culture, versus a thinly veiled attempt to benefit a few private investors. The fact of the matter is that most museums are publically owned and that many private owners are, as we speak,
selling away our cultural and historical heritage to private investors. We understand that culture is an integral part of peoples and nations and we understand that we must halt this process before it is too late. It is for these reasons that we are proud to propose.
Thank you Malik. I now invite Candace to present the Opposition’s closing remarks.
Mister Speaker,
Two very problematic assertions that the government bench makes that Adrian and I find especially problematic.
1. That all significant art in private hands are known to the public and world.
2. That art needs to be public to understand it’s context to culture
We tell you, mister speaker- that in the case that we already know about these significant pieces- it means that we already have access to replicas and insight into it’s meaningful creation. This doesn’t change under their side of the house.
Further, we tell you- to take the government’s case at its absolute best, even if all art required a public audience to be receptive to the mass people, we tell you that you still end up with a practical tradeoff that infringes upon massive human rights.
Their response of “it’s a principled debate, not practical” is not sufficient mister speaker. We need to have heard from them why the merits of public ownership outweigh the individual unhappiness and infringement of rights of the private collectors. We didn’t hear that at all.
Two things in my speech. First, a deconstruction of the government case at large, and secondly a third constructive point.
The only real argument we got coming out of government bench, is that art needs to be public to understand the context, the artist, and national pride.
4 responses to that.
1. They need to decide if they have art that is currently unknown that requires public ownership to study.
2. Even if that were the case, we tell you that the cultural and historical periods that we are talking about, already have a coherent image. We don’t buy that these few pieces of unearthed art are going to dramatically change our understanding of context and people.
We already know about the dissenting opinions- like Orwell and Atwood- at best these pieces of art would just be providing more examples of that.
3. Undoubtedly, we tell you that just seeing the art doesn’t equate understanding, right? For lack of a better phrase, there are definitely hundreds of people who go to the Louvre to just say they’ve seen the Mona Lisa. How many of those tourists actually understand the meaning?
Sure, people may know that da Vinci was the artist, but how many people know why she’s not smiling? How many people know when it was painted and why?
I’m going to propose:
Not nearly as many as side government claims.
4. In the case that the original art is so instrumental to the nation; in the case that the government wants to reattain iconic pieces owned by private collectors; the best mechanism is to allow that original art to be bought off the private hands, instead of forcibly removed.
We tell you, validating a piece of art by acknowledging it’s price is how you get the outcome side government wants. If you want people to be more invested and understand art at it’s best, get them to care.
When your government spends thousands and thousands of dollars on a painting, trust me, you’ll get a hell of a lot more people asking about the painting. Asking the kinds of questions- why is it so important, why is it so significant?
Some rebuilding before moving onto new material.
1. The claim that Malik makes about private collectors only caring about money and taxes is flawed. Investment, moreover monetary investment, is the most direct investment into that specific painting.
Even if I do only care about money, I’m not going to spend it randomly on expensive items- I’m going to learn and investigate the cultural and historical understanding of context, and hand select which of those painting I want to buy.
Mister speaker, that’s what Adrian’s point was! If you want more art to be created, you need to allow for the private market to sprout and grow. Under government side, you’re removing all of the most meaningful art from the private sector.
A lot of that really expensive and meaningful art is what private investors aspire to collect. If I’m an aspiring artist, I’m going to sell my small pieces with the goal of being able to privately own a Picasso. You remove that kind of goal and incentive, you shallow the industry
2. The response we hear for the second point is also really minimal. It is true that if I am a terrorist wanting to bomb somewhere meaningful, I might target the Louvre. If every piece of meaningful art is left in the public sphere, you have a greater chance of losing it.
We think that having private ownership does in fact protect the art from destruction- be it, targeted or by the hands of Mother Nature. Sorry, side government- no matter how much money the government has to protect the art, a bomb, or a tsunami, or a tornado does not prevent it.
We also fully agree that the this point can seem “overblown.” However, we think in it’s core, it makes sense. Allowing for private ownership actually allows for not only more people to have access- but also for protection in the case of a huge loss. Comparatively, it’s better.
Furthermore, if the government has so much money, we encourage them to spend it on coining these key pieces of art that they seem to desperately think requires a public space to be appreciated. I have never seen the Mona Lisa, but I appreciate it fully.
And finally onto constructive. I’ll be talking about minority groups.
We think it’s important on the opposition bench, to engage with this resolution on all levels. Not just talking about the eurocentric pieces of art that define the mainstream narrative of history, but of minority groups’ interpretations as well.
I’m talking about Aboriginal people for example. There’s definitely a key component of Aboriginal society that is built on physical art. To say that this culturally significant art all be owned by the government is really really problematic for two main reasons.
Firstly, we tell you that it propagates a very colonialistic attitude that says that the “white” government- be it the Canadian Government, should now be able to own their pieces and creations of art.
Many people within these minority groups, and minority groups as an entity have not reconciled fro the past atrocities, we tell you that this further damages any future chance of reaching that reconciliation.
Secondly, we tell you that it’s also likely to be misrepresented. Even something as simple as a translation of the text within a piece of art can be misrepresented.
Even if the translation is correct, we tell you mister speaker that most people will collectively tie all individual pieces of art as being representative of the Aboriginal community.
The individual appreciation of art will not happen, because more people will be quick to deem them similar, because they don’t see it.
Moreover, if these pieces of art are publicly framed in a museum, we tell you that you have now taken away the most receptive audience’s access to the art. This will further dissent and draw us even further from reconciliation and understanding of the art itself.
We on the opposition- gave you three main points.
1. Private collectors drives more creation of art
2. Private collections prevent wholesale destruction
3. Public ownership hurts art that represents minority groups of people
Government gave you one main argument, about understanding the art- we think Adrian and I have sufficiently taken that down.
We beg to oppose, thank you.