Code of Ethics & Charter

Updated and Approved at the CINOA AGM July 5, 2024

CINOA believes that through high ethical standards art and antique market players can play their part in preventing illicit trade in works of art and cultural goods. CINOA puts this into practice by insisting that CINOA member organisations require high levels of ethical behaviour in respect of the activities of their dealer members and that in fulfilling this requirement those organisations should take into account CINOA’s code of ethics. CINOA recommends adherence to the CINOA code for the entire profession.


The art and antique dealer profession plays an important role in the dissemination of culture through the international transfer of cultural goods to museums, foundations, and private collectors. Exposure to cultural goods and the preservation of them helps to educate and inspire future generations.

All the member organisations of CINOA agree to require their own members, the professionals, to comply with the texts of the current laws in the country or countries where they operate, to adhere to their organisation’s codes of conduct, which are tailored to their specific sector of the art market, and to respect CINOA’s guiding principles for the practice of selling and buying cultural goods outlined below. Member organisations affirm their commitment to these principles and acknowledge that unethical conduct tarnishes their organisation, their professional members, and the art market.   

The present code of ethical principles applies without distinction to all types of works of art and cultural goods that are negotiated or traded in the market.

Due Diligence and Provenance Research

The art and antique dealer professional recognizes the importance of provenance research for determining both attribution and legal title.* 

Before engaging in a transaction, whether it concerns a negotiation, an acquisition, a consignment or a sale of cultural goods, the professional agrees to diligently determine, where realistically possible and proportionate to the associated risk, the provenance of the goods to establish that they have not been illegally excavated or removed, stolen, looted, smuggled, misappropriated or are not illicit by any other means, particularly those from:

  • high-risk areas associated with looting and illegal exports
  • conflict zones
  • potential spoliation or forced sale by occupying forces or governments, as occurred during WW II/ Holocaust era 1933-45

As part of this process the professional undertakes, in good faith and with vigilance, to assess the risk inherent in a transaction, such as the value of the goods and the conduct of the other party, and to carry out a degree of due diligence research proportionate to that risk in order to determine the history and provenance of the goods using the market resources at their disposal and applying present knowledge. This could include contextual indicators, physical examination of the goods, obtaining documents such as historical records of prior ownership, import and export, or consulting cultural goods registers and databases.

(*CINOA makes available on its website information and links to resources for due diligence and provenance research:- Download the CINOA e toolkit)


The professional in possession of an object with clear evidence establishing it to have been exported illegally from a country under the applicable national patrimony law that was enforced by that country at the time the goods were exported, agrees to comply with the procedures imposed by that law to the extent that they are enforceable under the laws of the country where the professional operates.

In a case where the country of origin of the goods is asking for their return within the legally required period, the professional shall, after receiving compensation** – which cannot be less than the purchase price in the case of an acquisition in good faith – cooperate in its return to its country of origin.
(**The concept of compensation can only apply if permitted under national law applicable where the professional operates.)

Protection of Endangered Fauna and Flora The professional agrees to respect the local laws and regulations of the country where they operate that apply to the protection of threatened or endangered species. They agree not to trade in goods where the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have not been adhered to.

Anti-Money Laundering Obligations

The professional agrees to make themselves aware of relevant anti-money laundering laws and regulations and not to participate in transactions which, to the best of their knowledge, could be linked to money-laundering operations, sanctions breaches, tax evasion or terrorism financing. The professional agrees where applicable to report suspicions of money laundering to appropriate authorities and/or in-house anti-money laundering officers.

Accurate Descriptions and Authenticity

The professional will use their experience and knowledge to ensure that the descriptions of the cultural goods they sell are as accurate as possible and reflect information available to them at the time of sale. In higher risk situations where it may be necessary to give additional comfort to buyers, these descriptions should be substantiated with tests using relevant technology.

Breach of these Principles

Violations of member organisations’ respective codes shall be investigated by those organisations to ascertain if a breach has occurred. The appropriate party (such as senior management, a compliance department or committee, or the disciplinary body of a trade association) will evaluate any infractions and sanction the individual or the business, as each case may require. Sanctions may include a warning, suspensions, termination of employment or expulsion from membership of a trade association or professional body, as appropriate.


The CINOA Charter defines fine art dealers uncompromisingly as follows:

‘A professional buying and selling cultural goods, who is a dealer member of a CINOA trade association or an employee of an auction house affiliated to CINOA, is not only a merchant but also a consultant, who is required to respect the rules of their member organisation and any applicable laws. They serve a cultural mission by promoting, protecting, preserving and disseminating cultural goods which they identify and select based on knowledge and experience. The relationship with their clientele should be one of confidence and mutual trust. They should provide their clients with precise and accurate information based on available details and their evaluation concerning the date, the artist or creator and the preservation state of the cultural goods they are selling.’