France is set to release their long-awaited policy report on the restitution of cultural property—the guidelines for returning looted artworks from Nazi occupation and stolen artefacts from the colonial period. The report was commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron and overseen by the former Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez. The 85-page report will cover recommendations that the Senate will debate on 23 May.
In November 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the release of a report containing recommendations on how France should deal with cultural objects looted from former colonies in Africa. The report, authored by art historian Bénédicte Savoy and economist Felwine Sarr, called for a complete overhaul of French policy towards restitution and the return of significant cultural objects to their countries of origin. This will now be added to with the release of further studies.
The report outlined a series of guidelines for determining whether an object should be returned, including whether it was acquired through theft, seizure, or forced sale and whether it has significant cultural or historical importance. The report also emphasized the need for transparency and consultation with the countries of origin in the restitution process.
Following the report’s release, President Macron announced that France would return 26 looted objects to Benin in 2020, including a royal throne and statues taken during the colonial period. The restitution was the first of its kind and marked a significant shift in French policy towards cultural heritage from former colonies.
The French guidelines for returning objects looted from former colonies have been praised by many as a step towards acknowledging the historical injustices of colonialism and redressing the imbalance of power in the global art world. However, some critics argue that the guidelines do not go far enough and that more needs to be done to ensure that cultural objects are returned to their rightful owners.