Petition for the reopening of art galleries: the Council of State is seized with a request for interim relief


Following the new provisions of the decree n°2021-296 of 19 March 2021, the Professional Committee of the Art Galleries (CPGA) seized the French Council of State (Conseil d’Etat) on 25 March 2021 in order to obtain the reopening of art galleries.

The art market has, until now, resisted to the COVID-19 pandemic with a relatively limited loss of turnover in 2020, thanks to the development of the digital market and in particular of online only remote auctions[1], comprising sales without auctioneer.

The closing of museums since November 2020 could have encouraged the attendance rate of art galleries, but according to the aforementioned decree the art galleries are to be closed until 15 April 2021.

The Committee Profession of Art Galleries (CPGA), which represents 310 art galleries in France, has filed a request before the French Council of State for interim relief[2] in the hope to obtain a ruling stating that “on the one hand, art galleries are among the facilities which are authorized to welcome the public – in the same way as voluntary sales companies – and on the other hand, their activity belongs to the activites allowed to welcome the public – in the same way as bookstores and record shops.”.

According to the CPGA, which denounces “a general and absolute prohibition aiming at the art galleries” this closure would “seriously undermine several fundamental freedoms: the freedom of expression and the free communication of ideas, the freedom of creation and artistic diffusion, and the freedom to access the cultural and artistic works, but also entrepreneurial freedom, the freedom of the trade and the industry, as well as the right to the free exercise of a profession, and, as a whole, he principle of equality.”

Following the decision of the Council of State of 13 November  2020 on the opening of bookshops to the public[3], the CPGA argues in its request that is is “undeniable that, taking into account in particular the role played by the art galleries in the communication of the ideas and the opinions and the importance of the art and thus of the artistic works for the population, these goods, if they cannot be regarded as goods of primary necessity in the same way as foodstuffs or products which are essential to the maintenance of the economic activity in itself, are by nature essential to the population, which must be taken into account when taking measures of confinement and deconfinement related to the health crisis.”

As a reminder, this is not the first cultural sector to appeal before the French Council of State, since several representatives of the entertainment and cinema sectors had already referred to this instance[4] in order to obtain the reopening of cinemas, theatres and shows. The Council of State had then considered “that this closure was a serious infringement of freedoms, but was justified by an unfavourable and evolving health context”, its decision is now awaited concerning the galleries.

UGGC and its team of lawyers specialized in art law are at your disposal to assist you in protecting your legal and economic interests.

By the IP/IT team of UGGC Law Firm

Sources : Press release – 26 MARCH 2021 – The professional committee of art galleries refers to the Council of State for a summary judgment

[1] Art price – Report on The Art Market in 2020

[2] The interim relief request used here (“référé-liberté”) is an administrative procedure to be used in case of emergency, if an administrative decision seriously and obviously illegally affects a fundamental freedom.

[3] Council of State, November 13, 2020, SOCIETE LE POIRIER-AU-LOUP M. PRATS and others, N°s 445883, 445886, 445899

[4] The closure of cinemas, theatres and shows: an infringement of freedom of expression according to the French Council of State? By