Prof. Dr. Gianmaria Ajani

University of Torino - I

Curriculum Vitae

Prof. Dr. Gianmaria Ajani received his degree in law from the University of Turin in 1979. Subsequently he taught at various universities around the globe. He was a visiting scholar in Moscow and Leiden as well as a visiting professor in Berkeley, Fribourg, Wuhan, Bergen, and most recently in London. From 1987 to 1996, Gianmaria Ajani was Professor at the University of Trento, where he also served as Director of the Department of Law. Since 1996, he is Professor of Law at the University of Turin and holds the chairs of Comparative Legal Systems, Art & Law, and Contracts. In addition, he served as Director of the Legal Department from 1998 to 2004 and as Dean of the Law Faculty from 2009 to 2013. He has been Rector of the University of Turin (2013-2019).

Prof. Dr. Gianmaria Ajani has worked as legal expert and consultant for various international organisations such as the IMF, the EU Commission, the Council of Europe, the UNDP, the GIZ and the ILO. Furthermore, he served as an expert on legal reforms in China, Russia, Albania and Vietnam. He was also appointed by the OSCE as an expert to facilitate dialogue between the Ukrainian central government and the Crimean authorities.

He is author of numerous articles for national and international journals and co-editor of the journals "Brill Research Perspectives in Art and Law" and "Contratto e impresa/Europa". Prof. Gianmaria Ajani was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Savoie Mont Blanc. Moreover, he is Honorary Professor at the Shanghai Normal University and at the Zhonghan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan.

From October 2019 to March 2020, Prof. Dr. Gianmaria Ajani was a Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg "Law as Culture" in Bonn.

Research Project

"From Property to Contract: A Proposal to Govern Some Challenges Brought to Private Law by Contemporary Visual Arts"

1. Not too many years after the “Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works” [hereinafter Berne Convention] was adopted (1886), a revolution occurred in Visual Arts; by detaching art from aesthetics, Marcel Duchamp set out a different course from the one it had been followed since the Renaissance.

An unexpected pioneer, not a lonely visionary, Duchamp was  backed up by the action of Man Ray, Picabia, Kurt Scwitters. Throughout ready-made installations,  reappropriation, parody, they called the 20th century art movements to rethink established relations between artwork and aesthetics, also opening the path to conceptual artists and their erosion of the “artwork as an object”.

2. Far from establishing a worldwide and stable harmonization of national regulations on the matter of  Artists Rights, the Berne Convention has “frozen” artistic  action within a set of taxonomies at the very eve of their outbreak.

In fact, when confronting the classifications adopted by the Berne  Convention with the challenges brought in by contemporary artists in the first decades of 20th century, we notice right away that a set of major problems arise:

  • On one hand, its preference for a vague terminology – which characterizes the language of public international law-  far from providing a standard for global harmonization of copyright law,  has left  undefined a space, which has been  filled in by national laws and their implementation (this is, e.g., the case of the originality requirement)
  • On the other hand, the Convention fails to cope with challenges related to the transformation of  both the aesthetic canon and the methodology of artworks production (such as, e.g. hybridization). Its vertical categories are an excessive boundary, which maintains within an out-dated vertical space artistic expressions made to explicitly trespass traditional frames of visual art.

3. Art is free and it does not bear borders or limits; Law sets out borders and limits. Wisely enough, lawmakers (both at the international and national level) refrain from providing definitions on “what is art”.

However, when artworks circulate, they activate a normative order made to rule on the patrimonial effect of the same circulation, namely property and contract law, tax law, administrative regulation. No evidence is needed anymore to recognize that “classic private law”, as well as tax laws, remain deeply affected by the “classic law paradigm”:  a field occupied by an author/subject, who is facing a world made of users-buyers.

Whenever the normative order fails to provide a clear assessment of the rules governing the transfer of artworks, conflicts arise. The identification of increasing conflicts among those actors is the evidence of how broadly “classic law” is not able anymore to provide a clear and widely accepted response to the several issues rising out from that circulation.

The loss of clear identification of the artwork/art-action as an “object”, the transformation of a “solid” artwork into a process, the evaporation of the space/time limits which contained within recognizable borders an artwork, the curtailment of curators’ rights to restore the artwork: all these examples and the related judicial conflicts provide a clear signal: “classical property law” is not able anymore to provide a predictable and  effective set of  indicators on “how to govern transfer, preservation, use, of artworks property”.

4. Having redefined its ontological standards and blurred the borders between production and fruition, contemporary art is more “liquid” than ever.

This assumption calls for a rethinking of the role of property law in managing the circulation of artworks/art-actions; the hypothesis is that while property law is not functional any more to govern the challenges posed by some Artists, a functional response could arise from contract law.

The contract (which has been relegated to the margins of the art market),  as a binding formalization of a process negotiated between fully-informed parties, has found a new, more complex role in the artworks of some conceptual artists, who work on themes such as the promise, and the gift.  Contracts are beginning to attract more attention in areas such as public art; here, the complexity of the relationship between parties commissioning  artwork, artists and users makes the contract format a valuable means for enabling information to be shared and responsibility to be assigned.

Based on the premises here set under points 1-3, my research project aims to:

  • mapping the area of judicial responses to disputes arising from artworks/art-actions circulation
  • identifying the fields of art production where the recourse to contract law, namely to a newly established set of agreed responsibilities among the different actors of the art world, would provide a more functional approach to situations unsolved by property law
  • laying down a set of proposals aimed to expand the role of contract law in preventing disputes among the art-producers and the art-users (such as curators in  Museums, Municipalities), with particular attentions to:
    • art in public spaces
    • re-activation, maintenance and restoration of artworks

Publications (selected)

  • G. Ajani, “Russian Liberalism and the Rule of Law: Notes from Underground”, in (R.M. Cucciolla ed.) Dimensions and Challenges of Russian Liberalism, pp. 15-26, Springer, 2019.
  • G., Ajani, S. Ferreri, “Comparative Law and Multicultural Legal Classes: Challenge or Opportunity? ”, in Annuario di diritto comparato e studi legislativi, 2018, pp. 1-25
  • G.Ajani, “Ruling by Indicators: How the Use of Vague Notions and Quantitative Indicators Facilitates Legal Change”, in Cardozo Electronic Law Bulletin, 2017, pp. 1-25.
  • G.Ajani, “Le traduzioni delle nozioni vaghe”, in The Cardozo Electronic Law Bulletin, 2017 pp.1-18.
  • G.Ajani, G. Boella, et al., “The European Taxonomy Syllabus: A multi-lingual, multi-level ontology framework to untangle the web of European legal terminology”, in Applied Ontology, 2016, pp. 325-375.
  • G.Ajani, “Il codice civile albanese,” in Annuario di diritto comaprato e studi legislativi, 2014.
  • G.Ajani, “Diritto privato europeo: nuove complessità”, in Contratto e impresa Europa, 2012, n. 1.
  • G. Ajani, Trapianto di norme ‘informato’ e globalizzazione: alcune considerazioni, in Studi in onore di Aldo Frignani, Jovene, Napoli, 2011, pp. 3-16.
  • G.Ajani (with A. Donati, eds.), I diritti dell’arte contemporanea, Allemandi, Torino, 2011, pp. 1-204.
  • G.Ajani (with P. Casanovas, U. Pagallo, G. Sartor eds.), AI Approaches to the Complexity of Legal Systems, Spinger, 2010, pp. 1-241.
  • G.Ajani, “Transplants, Legal Borrowings and Reception”, in Encyclopedia of Law and Society (D.Clark gen. ed.), New York, 2007, vol. 3
  • G. Ajani, Das Recht der Laender Osteuropas, Berliner Wissenschafts Verlag, 2005, pp. 1-253
  • G. Ajani, "Law and Economic Reform in the Transition from Plan to Market", Int. Encycl. of Comparative Law, vol. XVI State and Economy, R. Buxbaum, F. Madl (eds.), Mohr, Tubingen, 2006
  • G.Ajani, R. Schulze (eds.), Gemeinsame Prinzipien des europaischen Privatrechts, 
Nomos Verlag, Baden Baden, 2003, pp. 1-429