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Mr Howarth said: “The Government offers its warmest support to ArtResolve and hopes that its initiative will be reciprocated by open-mindedness on the part of claimants, not least as a most welcome and affordable alternative to litigation.”

The company was set up by John Kendall, a solicitor and specialist in expert determination, and Professor Norman Palmer, barrister, editor of Art Antiquity & Law and chairman of the ministerial Advisory Panel on Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects, who thought there was a need for a specialised service drawing on the resources of members of the Institute of Art and Law.

It offers private out-of-court options for settling disputes over art or antiquities more efficiently and inexpensively than the traditional legal system.

Disputes may include attribution, authenticity, title, provenance, copyright, liability for loss or damage, matters of insurance or indemnity. John Kendall told the Antiques Trade Gazette that several institutions had already shown interest in the scheme.

ArtResolve first recommends a process of voluntary, non-binding mediation. Should this fail, either party may choose one of two private and binding options: expert determination or arbitration. Expert determination is carried out by one or more experts agreed upon by both parties or selected by ArtResolve from its resource of lawyers, art experts, archaeologists and historians. Arbitration is carried out under the United Nation’s UNCITRAL rules. The decision in both cases is final and binding.

ArtResolve has also applied for charitable status for its research and education work.