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Art and the Law: Understanding the Connection

Professor Emily Behzadi

The visual arts have always held a very special interest to Professor Emily Behzadi.

She received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Centre in Washington, D.C. She then went on to earn a Master of Arts at New York University, Institute of Fine Arts.

“My lifelong interest and passion for the arts began at an early age and eventually led me to pursue higher degrees in art history,” said Behzadi. “The arts serve as important gateways to our past and are mementos of our collective culture, society, and identity. As I articulated in one of my articles, the arts serve as “cultural ambassadors” and introduce us to different cultures, perspectives, and traditions. Due to the immense psychological and emotional connection a piece of art may have on an individual or community, laws that affect its transactions are profoundly impactful.”

Behzadi joins the California Western faculty this fall and will be teaching Property I and II and Art and Cultural Heritage Law. Over the past year, Behzadi served as an Adjunct Professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law and Barry University, Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, where she taught Art Law and Contract Drafting seminars.

“As a Cuban-Iranian woman, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as Assistant Professor at a law school so dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Behzadi. “Cal Western is an institution that wholeheartedly promotes diversity and cultural competence in all aspects of faculty scholarship, pedagogy, mentorship, and community service. I am grateful to be a part of this welcoming community.”

With a background in art history, Behzadi’s research focuses on the interdisciplinary connection between the law and the arts within a national and international framework. Her most recent scholarly paper published in the George Mason International Law Journal is titled Spain For Spaniards”: An Examination Of The Plunder & Polemic Restitution Of The Salamanca Papers. The paper explores complex issues of restitution and the prohibition against the confiscation of cultural heritage as developing norms of customary international law.

Behzadi has also been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of International Law and International Relations, Entertainment and Sports Lawyer, and the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal.

“Over the last few decades, the global art market has evolved into a multi-million-dollar industry, entailing very complex, unique, and nuanced legal and regulatory issues on a national and international scale,” said Behzadi. “There are widespread opportunities for new and developing scholarship in this area of law, including expanding on the current body of scholarship related to the destruction of cultural heritage. My forthcoming article opines that the destruction of cultural heritage is a violation of human rights and, thus, individuals should be held accountable in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute. I am also in the process of drafting a new article on redefining America’s cultural heritage in light of the controversy around Confederate statutes.”

As an attorney, Behzadi practiced in law firms in New York and Florida in the areas of art and entertainment law, including intellectual property, contracts, immigration, and civil litigation. She is licensed to practice law in New York, Florida, and Washington D.C. She has worked with distinguished clients such as Oscar Award-winning directors, cinematographers, Tony Award-winning producers, actors, and playwrights, as well as some of the world's most renowned contemporary visual artists and gallery directors.

“While in private practice, I primarily worked in the art and entertainment industries and I had the privilege to gain experience in a variety of different areas of law and to work with both established entertainers and emerging artists,” said Behzadi. “This experience will undoubtedly inform my curriculum in the classroom and will allow students to gain insight into these incredibly niche fields. Given our location and our overall institutional excellence, I believe California Western students are especially well-suited to enter these competitive industries. I hope to be a source of knowledge and an effective mentor as students begin their journeys to become practicing attorneys.”

Behzadi is the Chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division Entertainment and Sports Law Committee and the Vice Chair of the International Division of the ABA Entertainment and Sports Industries Forum. Recently, she was recognized in the ABA’s 2020 On the Rise - Top 40 Young Lawyers Award, which provides national recognition for ABA young lawyer members who exemplify a broad range of high achievement, innovation, vision, leadership, as well as legal and community service.

Excited to join her new colleagues at California Western, Behzadi is also keen to get to know her new students.

“I look forward to getting to know my students and encouraging them to engage in open and inclusive dialogues in my classrooms,” said Behzadi. “I believe that a law school would be nothing without its students, and I will continue to foster a student-centered culture in this new online environment. While the Zoom classroom experience may not be ideal, I know that Cal Western students will thrive regardless.”

Passionate about the role of law within the visual arts world, Behzadi aptly sums up that passion in the last line of her recent scholarly paper. Quoting Hemmingway, she writes.

“In the end, one thing will always ring true, ‘if a man [or woman] has something once, always something of it remains.’”

To learn more about Professor Behzadi, click here.