Grossman LLP | Art Law Blog
Art Law Blog
  • Grossman LLP Scores Major Victory for Peter Beard
    Earlier this summer, a New York state court published a written opinion granting summary judgment to famed artist, Peter Beard, in an important lawsuit that will cause art-market participants to think twice before entering into hand-shake deals. Grossman LLP filed this suit on behalf of Beard and his eponymous Studio against a group of defendants led by art collector Bernie Chase. Beard’s complaint alleged that during a series of interactions in the fall of 2013, Chase had taken possession of three artworks created by Beard, without permission from or compensation to Beard, and further, that Chase and his co-defendants had then marketed the works for sale at a New York gallery partially owned by Chase (and in fact had succeeded in selling one of the three pieces). 
  • Appeals Court Revives Case In Dispute Over Nazi-Looted Pissarro Work
    In our ongoing coverage of case law involving Nazi-looted artworks, we have written before about the long-running lawsuit over a Pissarro painting, Rue St. Honore, après midi, effet de pluie. Back in 2015, we wrote about a district-court decision that dealt a possibly-fatal blow to the claimants, who were seeking to recover the work from a collection controlled by the Spanish government. Earlier in July, however, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, meaning the painting’s claimants can continue their fight in the federal courts.
  • Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Case Involving Seizure of Iranian Artifacts on Loan to U.S. Museums
    The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, a case out of the Seventh Circuit regarding the ability to execute on a judgment by seizing Iranian artifacts held in American museums. The case will likely resolve a circuit split over whether victims of state-sponsored terrorism can collect on judgments by targeting assets of the foreign state held in the United States, even if those assets are otherwise protected by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).
  • Serial Forger Indicted Again
    Convicted forger Vincent Lopreto has been arrested again in connection with forged artworks, having allegedly commenced another art-fraud scheme just weeks after his release from a two-year prison sentence for a similar crime.
  • Case of Forged Golub Works Will Move Forward
    Andrew Hall will be able to pursue his suit against Lorettann and Nikolas Gascard, who Hall alleges sold forgeries of paintings by American artist Leon Golub. Hall sued the former art-history professor and her son last fall in federal district court in New Hampshire, claiming that he purchased twenty-four works, either directly from the Gascards or indirectly through auction houses. Hall sued the Gascards for fraud, seeking the return of the approximately $700,000 purchase price for the works.
  • Warhol Foundation Seeks Declaratory Relief In Case Against Creator of Photo of Late Musician Prince
    The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts filed a preemptive lawsuit regarding Warhol’s appropriation of a photograph of the late musician Prince Rogers Nelson, also known as Prince. The Foundation’s counterparty is Colorado-based photographer Lynn Goldsmith, who, in 1981, took a photograph of Prince.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightFine ArtLegal Developments
  • McDonald’s In the Hot Seat Again Over Unauthorized Use of Graffiti Art
    In April, another group of graffiti artists sent a demand letter to McDonald’s, this time threatening legal action in connection with a promotional video produced by McDonald’s to advertise a new product in the Netherlands. This dispute is yet another example of the curious place that graffiti art occupies in the copyright arena.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Recent Legal Developments Regarding Forgeries Serve As Warnings To Collectors
    05/04/2017 | By Kate Lucas
    We have continuously followed stories in the news and in the courts about the continuing efforts of the art market to deal with the problem of forgeries.  From the Knoedler scandal to the concerns about counterfeit Old Masters being peddled on the European market, this issue is clearly not going away anytime soon.  Today, we take note of developments in three more cases that shine a spotlight on this ongoing challenge.
  • Graffiti Artists’ VARA Claims Regarding Destruction of 5Pointz Works Head to Trial
    04/10/2017 | By Kate Lucas
    This long-running dispute revolves around a piece of property in Queens, known as 5Pointz, which once served as a remarkable repository of a huge amount of graffiti art. Gerald Wolkoff, who co-owns the site along with other related entities, allowed artists to create works on the site’s old industrial buildings; indeed, one artist, Jonathan Cohen, was even appointed as a volunteer “curator,” selecting artists and setting community standards. 5Pointz attracted nationally and internationally renowned graffiti artists, tourists, and fans for years, until, in 2013, the owners announced plans to demolish the existing structures at the site to make way for a residential complex.
  • Antiques Dealer Ordered to Pay $1.1 Million Over Sale of Fake Renoir
    New York gallery owner Alex Komolov has emerged victorious in litigation against antiques dealer Jack Shaoul arising out of the sale of a fake Renoir. Komolov, owner of the Alskom Gallery, sued Shaoul in 2013 for unjust enrichment, conversion, and fraudulent misrepresentation, claiming that the dealer sold him a forged Renoir painting for $1.1million in 2010. After trial, a jury awarded Komolov the full purchase price plus interest. According to Komolov’s attorney, Shaoul previously served 40 months in prison for mail and wire fraud and conspiracy, including misattribution of a painting.
  • New York Appellate Court Rules That Invoices Are Not The Final Word On Determining Ownership Of Artwork
    A New York appeals court issued a ruling in a matrimonial case that could have important implications for how courts will evaluate questions of title to artwork. The case serves as a reminder that clear and thorough documentation at the time of an art transaction can help avoid disputes down the road.
    CATEGORY: Legal Developments
  • Supreme Court Decision in Cheerleading Uniform Case Clarifies Standards for Copyrightability of Graphic Elements of Useful Articles
    This blog follows important legal developments in the copyright arena, including cases regarding “copyrightability,” i.e., the threshold question of whether a work is entitled to copyright. Last summer, we wrote about a copyrightability case that had advanced all the way to the Supreme Court. Last week, the Supreme Court issued its decision in that case, and in the process provided some clarity on an issue of interest to those in the art, fashion, and design arenas.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Appeals Court Upholds Jury Award To Sculptor For Copyright Infringement
    Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $450,000 jury award in a case against a businessman who commissioned knockoff copies of several of the artist’s sculptures. The plaintiff in the case, California artist Donald Wakefield, is known for his large-scale stone and metal sculptural works, each of which is one-of-a-kind.  According to court filings, in 2004 he contacted a handful of real-estate developers whom he believed might be interested in purchasing some of his sculptures.  Hprovided these prospective buyers with information about his work, and he pointed them toward his website displaying photographs of his creations.  One of the businesses he solicited was Olen Properties, owned by billionaire Igor Olenicoff.
  • Trend Toward Voluntary Restitution of Allegedly Looted Artworks Continues
    While we often write about high-profile litigation over Nazi-looted artworks, it’s worth noting that in recent months, there have been a number of important examples of voluntary restitution, as parties increasingly seek to resolve such disputes outside the courtroom. In January, a German food company, Dr. Oetker, took steps to return four artworks from its corporate art collection whose provenances had been traced to victims of the Nazi regime.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Nazi-looted ArtProvenance
  • Old Master Forgery Story Update: Sotheby’s Files Another Suit To Recover Sale Proceeds, This Time From Sale of Allegedly Fake Hals
    In November, we wrote about increasing scrutiny of multiple Old Master artworks that have recently come under suspicion as potential forgeries.  And in January, we posted about a federal lawsuit Sotheby’s has filed in connection with the scandal; in that suit, Sotheby’s seeks to recover sale proceeds from a collector who sold one of the fake works at a 2012 Sotheby’s auction.  Now, the fallout continues; in February, Sotheby’s filed a second suit over another artwork, this time in the U.K. court system; as with the first suit, the auction house’s goal is to claw back the proceeds of a sale of a work sold through Sotheby’s that has since been shown to be a fake.
  • Court Rules Against Art Advisor Who Made “Secret Profit” From Sale of Basquiat Work
    Last week, a New York judge granted summary judgment for the estate of an art collector on multiple claims against an art advisor who brokered the sale of the collector’s Basquiat work and, unbeknownst to the seller, pocketed a hefty profit.  See Schulhof v. Jacobs, Docket No. 157797/2013 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.).
  • Art Market Conference Seeks to Address Problems of Illicit Trafficking
    A recent conference in Geneva reflects an attempt by private art-market actors to raise awareness and address the problems of illicit trafficking of art and antiquities.  While such illegal activity in the art market is hardly limited to Switzerland, the nation’s freeports and custom-free zones make it particularly vulnerable to attempts to circumvent international laws.  And the Geneva Freeport specifically is reeling from recent negative publicity—including the feud between Yves Bouvier and Dmitry Rybolovlev, the discovery of an allegedly Nazi-looted Modigliani painting, and the seizure of looted Syrian antiquities. 
  • Sotheby’s Sues Consignor To Recover Sale Proceeds From Auction of Allegedly Fake Parmigianino, Amid Continuing Fears About Old Master Forgeries
    In November, we wrote about increasing scrutiny of multiple Old Master artworks that have recently come under suspicion as potential forgeries.  Now, federal litigation has commenced in connection with the scandal, as Sotheby’s attempts to recover sale proceeds from a collector who sold one of the fake works at a 2012 Sotheby’s auction.
  • Forgery Case Highlights Importance of Pre-Sale Diligence
    Andrew Hall, a hedge-fund manager and art collector, filed suit against Lorettann Gascard, a former art-history professor at Franklin Pierce University, and her son, Nikolas, alleging that the Gascards sold him twenty-four artworks by the famed artist Leon Golub that actually were forgeries. The Gascards are now firing back that Hall alone should be held responsible for his failure to conduct adequate pre-sale diligence; a common refrain among accused fraudsters looking to cast blame back on sophisticated art collectors, like Hall.
  • Recently Enacted Federal Law Hopes to Facilitate Art Lending from Abroad
    Under a recently enacted federal law, foreign states have been granted sovereign immunity in controversies over the temporary exhibition of artworks and cultural objects on loan to the United States, The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act, signed at the end of last year by President Obama, grants immunity from federal or state-court jurisdiction to foreign governments, where an artwork or cultural object from that country has been imported for a temporary display at a U.S. cultural or educational institution.
  • Getty Museum Sued Over Negotiations Regarding Famed Italian Art Collection
    A new lawsuit was filed in New York federal court in mid-January against the famed Getty Museum over a series of negotiations regarding an Italian collection of classical art. The plaintiffs are entities who claim they spent considerable time and effort preparing the collection for sale, laying the groundwork for a deal, and facilitating delicate communications between the Getty, Italian officials, and the collection’s owners; but were later frozen out of those other parties’ dealings, leaving the plaintiffs empty handed.
  • Prince’s Disavowal of Ivanka Trump Work Raises Questions About An Artist’s Role In Defining His Oeuvre
    Richard Prince is no stranger to controversy; indeed, it’s arguably an essential element of his art.  We’ve written in recent years about several copyright infringement cases against Prince involving his practice of “appropriation” of others’ artworks as part of his own.
  • With New Suit Against Francesca’s, Artists Continue to Strike Back Against Alleged Copying By Consumer Brands
    Recent months have seen a number of lawsuits or threatened suits by independent artists seeking to protect their work from alleged unauthorized copying by retailers and other consumer brands.  Another similar suit has been filed, this time against clothing and accessories chain Francesca’s, as well as two of Francesca’s suppliers, plus various “Doe Defendants” (i.e., defendants that will be named after discovery) involved in the design, manufacture, distribution, and marketing of the allegedly infringing products.
  • Sotheby’s Goes To Court in Rybolovlev/Bouvier Dispute Over Leonardo Painting
    We’ve written before about the bitter feud between Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev and his former art dealer, Swiss businessman Yves Bouvier.  Our previous post contains more detail, but in short, in 2014, the two had a highly-publicized falling-out after Rybolovlev accused Bouvier of overcharging him—to the tune of as much as $1 billion—for dozens of artworks that Bouvier helped him to acquire.
  • Louis Vuitton Seeks Rehearing in Second Circuit Trademark Infringement Case
    As we reported recently, the Second Circuit sided with parody-handbag producer My Other Bag in a trademark-infringement suit launched by high-end fashion brand Louis Vuitton.   The Second Circuit had upheld a district court finding that the use of the Louis Vuitton mark on inexpensive canvas tote bags was transformative parody and protected as fair use.
  • Suit Over Cady Noland Artwork Ends Without Significant Ruling on VARA
    We’ve written before about conceptual artist Cady Noland, whose works command huge prices in the market, but who has a history of being highly particular about how her creations are installed, maintained, exhibited, and sold on the secondary market.  This tendency has resulted, on at least two recent occasions, in litigation over her disavowal of previous works.  Now, both cases have been resolved, but without significant judicial examination of the contours of an artist’s right to disavow her own creations.
  • Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Louis Vuitton’s Tote-Bag Suit
    High-end fashion brand Louis Vuitton has lost its trademark suit against a tote-bag company My Other Bag, which markets canvas bags decorated with cartoonish reproductions of bags from high-end fashion lines (such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton), accompanied by the text “My Other Bag….”   This decision is notable, among other reasons, because it reaffirms the contours of the sometimes murky fair-use defense.
  • Auction Houses Head To Court Over Allegedly “Scraped” Sales Data
    In the fast-moving and often-opaque art market, information is power—as seen in a recent lawsuit between rival auction houses over allegedly pilfered sales data. A complaint was filed last week in Texas federal district court by Heritage Auctions, a major U.S.-based auction house. The defendants are auction giant Christie’s and its subsidiary Collectrium (which Christie’s acquired in 2015).
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: AuctionCopyright
  • New Lawsuit Filed Against Bavarian State Over Allegedly Nazi-Looted Artworks
    The heirs of a prominent Jewish art dealer have sued the Bavarian state over a group of eight valuable paintings that were allegedly looted when the dealer fled Nazi Germany.  See Docket No. 16-09360 (S.D.N.Y.).  The filing likely marks the start of another complex litigation against a sovereign state over artwork clouded by actions taken during the Nazi era.
  • Another Richard Prince Lawsuit
    Richard Prince has had a busy year on the litigation front. We’ve previously written about the copyright claims photographer Donald Graham filed last winter against Prince and the Gagosian Gallery over Prince’s use of Instagram images in his 2014-15 “New Portraits” exhibition. A motion to dismiss that case on fair use grounds is currently pending.
  • Court Allows Most of Buyer's Claims to Proceed In Lawsuit Over Koons Sculpture
    Over the summer, we reported on a lawsuit against the David Zwirner Gallery filed by a disgruntled collector who had paid $2 million for a Jeff Koons sculpture that the gallery never delivered.  This week, a New York state court rejected Zwirner’s attempt to dismiss the suit; allowing several of the claims against Zwirner to proceed.
  • Highsmith’s Federal Claims Against Getty Images Dismissed
    A federal court has thrown out a significant portion of Carol Highsmith’s lawsuit against Getty Images.  Highsmith’s complaint alleged that Getty had improperly demanded license fees for images that it did not own, of which Highsmith was the author and copyright holder.
    CATEGORY: Legal Developments
  • Fake Old Master Painting Uncovered in Europe Raises Fears of More Sophisticated Forgeries on the Market
    The art world is watching with concern the unfolding story of a fake Frans Hals painting; facts are still developing as of this writing, but it’s possible that the work may not be an isolated forgery but rather the harbinger of a larger group of well-executed fakes that could shake up the Old Master market.
  • South Korea Seeks to Increase Regulatory Oversight of Art Market
    The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has passed new legislation imposing strict regulations on art transactions.  The law is intended to increase transparency in the art market by requiring more documentation, and establishing regulatory bodies to oversee the authentication of artworks and investigation of forgeries.  The law may be implemented as early as August 2017.
  • Former Knoedler Director Ann Freedman Reaches Another Settlement
    This blog—like the rest of the art world—has closely followed the legal developments that continue to unfold in the wake of the Knoedler scandal, which exploded in 2011 when one of New York’s oldest art galleries closed following revelations that it had sold dozens of artworks (over the course more than a decade, in deals totaling about $60 million)—purported to be by Rothko, Pollock, Motherwell, and other famed Abstract Expressionists—that later turned out to be forgeries.
  • Kohl's Becomes The Latest Retailer To Face Accusations of Copyright Infringement
    Over the summer, we wrote about a group of independent artists mounting a publicity campaign—and threatening legal action—against fast-fashion retailer Zara over the alleged unauthorized incorporation of the artists’ designs into some of Zara’s wares.  This autumn, a new federal lawsuit by artist Lili Chin levies similar accusations against a major department-store chain, Kohl’s, regarding its sale of garments adorned with drawings nearly identical to a series of copyrighted illustrations by Chin.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Appellate Court Sides with Defendants In Lawsuit Over "Confidential" Sale of Rothko Masterpiece
    We have previously covered the litigation arising out of the 2007 sale of a Rothko masterpiece; the work’s seller sued the buyer and an intermediary dealer over alleged violations of a confidentiality provision in the sale contract, after the buyer and dealer resold the piece in a highly publicized 2009 auction.  In late September, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in favor of the defendants, in an opinion that serves as a reminder about the importance of clear contracting in art transactions.
  • McDonald's Sued For Copying Graffiti Art
    When international fast-food chain McDonald’s launched a campaign featuring images of graffiti art decorating some of its restaurants, the restaurant opened itself up to litigation asserting, among other things, copyright and trademark claims by artists who say their work has been copied without permission.  As graffiti art has become increasingly artistically and commercially valuable in recent years, courts and litigants have had to examine how copyright law applies to this unique art form.
  • The Met Faces Litigation Regarding Nazi-Era Art
    Litigation involving art displaced during World War II—and with it the continued focus on the need for adequate pre-acquisition due diligence—is in the news again with the recent filing of complaint against the Metropolitan Museum of Art regarding Pablo Picasso’s The Actor.  See Estate of Leffman v. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 16-cv-7665 (S.D.N.Y.)
  • Dispute Involving Art "Investments" Provides Another Cautionary Tale About Pre-Sale Diligence
    An art investor has initiated legal proceedings in New York state court against a Manhattan gallery she says she “trusted and relied upon” to select artworks as investments, claiming that she now has reason to question key details (like authenticity and purchase price) of several transactions with the gallery.  As is all too common, the parties apparently engaged in multiple art deals—here, involving over a hundred works, over the course of several years—with minimal documentation.  And now that their relationship has deteriorated, a court may have the difficult task of adjudicating the dispute without a written contract in place to guide its analysis.
  • The Role of a "Studio Assistant" Comes Under Fire in Spanish Lawsuit
    Spanish pop artist Antonio De Felipe, sometimes referred to as the “Spanish Andy Warhol,” is under fire due to accusations by his former studio assistant that he is selling her works as his own.  Fumiko Negishi, an artist who worked as De Felipe’s studio assistant from 2006 to February of this year, has brought a lawsuit against him claiming that she painted 221 canvases signed by De Felipe.
  • Elliot Stevens Gallery and Customer Head To Court Over Allegedly Fake Sculptures
    A disgruntled client’s claims against the Elliot Stevens Gallery and its executive are headed to trial this fall in a dispute involving the client’s purchase of a group of sculptures.
  • Dueling Lawsuits Between Gallerist and Art Advisor Raise Questions About Industry Norms and Unwritten Representations
    Earlier this summer, a heated dispute erupted between a Manhattan gallerist and a private art advisory business, in a case that raises issues regarding the roles of galleries and advisors at the high end of the art market.
  • The Devil's In The Details In Lawsuit Between Alec Baldwin and Mary Boone
    Back in August, the New York Times ran a story about a heated dispute between actor Alec Baldwin and gallerist Mary Boone over a painting by Ross Bleckner.  Baldwin has now commenced a lawsuit in New York state court against Boone and her eponymous gallery, claiming that she defrauded him into buying a different version of the painting he wanted.  See Docket No. 654807/2016 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.).
  • New Lawsuit Again Highlights the Need for Adequate Pre-Sale Diligence
    The spotlight once again is focused on questions concerning the appropriate level of pre-sale diligence in art transactions, this time with allegations against the National Gallery in London.  On Tuesday, the heirs of Margarete “Greta” Moll brought suit against The National Gallery of Art seeking to recover a painting by Henri Matisse, Portrait of Greta Moll, allegedly lost in the aftermath of World War II.  Williams v. The National Gallery of Art, London, et al., Case No. 16-cv-06978.
  • Art Collector Indicted For Tax Evasion, Highlighting Law Enforcement's Continued Focus On Financial Wrongdoing in the Art World
    Real-estate developer and art collector Michael Shvo has been indicted in an alleged tax-evasion scheme relating to fine-art purchases. Shvo allegedly participated in a scheme to evade over $1 million in state and local sales tax associated with the purchase of fine art and other luxury items, according to a press release from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, by falsely representing to art galleries and auction houses that his purchases would be shipped out of state, when they were actually shipped to his New York addresses.
  • Victory For the Norman Simon Museum In Latest Chapter of Dispute Over Nazi-Confiscated Cranach Diptych
    We have written before about a long-running legal battle between the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, and the heir to a Jewish Dutch art dealer who fled the Netherlands in 1940.  The focus of the dispute is a diptych (two painted panels) titled Adam and Eve, painted around 1530 by German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder.  A recent district court decision dealt a possibly fatal blow to the claims by plaintiff Marei Von Saher, although she plans to appeal.
  • Amended Complaint Against Zwirner Reveals "Mystery Work" to be by Koons
    An amended complaint has been filed in a case against art dealer David Zwirner, adding claims for violation of New York’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law.  As we recently discussed, Zwirner has been sued by UK entity Blue Art Limited (headed by dealer Fabrizio Moretti) over a $2 million deal gone bad.   The initial complaint concealed the description of the artwork to avoid “possible further damage to the Work’s value,” but the amended complaint clarifies that the sculpture at the center of the dispute is Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden), by Jeff Koons.
  • Buyer Sues Zwirner Claiming Failure To Deliver Work Within a "Reasonable Time"
    Prominent art dealer David Zwirner and his eponymous gallery have been sued by a buyer over a $ 2million deal gone bad, in a case that should serve as a reminder about the importance of clear contracting regarding the timing of art transactions.
  • Strange Cases of Authentication: When Is the Artist's Word Enough?
    Two pending cases present opposite but equally curious issues of art authentication by a living artist.  In one, the artist Peter Doig is being sued because he disavowed authorship of a work that a collector says is by Doig; in the other, an artist claims authorship over works that another man claims to have forged.  Both cases pose interesting questions about who, if not the artist, is the final say on whether an artwork is by the artist’s hand.
  • Photographer Seeks to Prevent Monetization of Archive Donated For Public Use
    As we’ve discussed on this blog before, infringement of copyrighted works posted online is rampant, rendering artists marketing through social media vulnerable to infringement of their intellectual property.  A recent case highlights this risk to photographers posting their works online.
  • Independent Artists On the Offensive After Zara Allegedly Steals Designs
    Fast-fashion-brand Zara is facing a potential lawsuit—as well as an ongoing publicity battle—over accusations by a growing number of independent artists claiming Zara copied their designs. The firestorm began in mid-July when LA-based artist and designer Tuesday Bassen went public on Twitter with her belief that Zara had ripped off her designs for a series of pins and patches by reproducing them on Zara’s own line of iron-on patches.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketCopyright
  • The Struggle Continues: Recent Developments in Nazi-Era Art Restitution
    This summer has brought several stories about the continuing and complex efforts to address the painful impact of Nazi Germany and World War II on the world’s cultural heritage and the global art market.
  • Recently Settled Lawsuit Involving $100 Million Picasso Sculpture Highlights Many of the Pitfalls of Art Sales
    A recent settlement involving several major art-world players raises some important points about contracting in art transactions.
  • Sotheby’s Drawn Into International Art Feud Between Russian Billionaire and Swiss Freeport Magnate
    A dispute between two powerful figures in the international art world has been playing out on a global stage for months.  Now, a major auction house has been dragged into the fray, sparking even more debate about the role of confidentiality in a market that often operates with minimal transparency and places a premium on secrecy.
  • Supreme Court Will Hear Case Regarding Copyrightability of Graphic Elements of Useful Articles
    While this blog often writes about the “fair use” defense in federal copyright law, we also frequently take note of cases that grapple with larger questions about copyrightability—that is, whether a work is covered by copyright protection at all.  In that vein, the Supreme Court announced earlier this month that it will review a Sixth Circuit decision regarding a thorny issue of copyrightability, in a case that may have implications across the art, fashion, and design industries.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Jeff Koons Reaches Settlement In Recent Lawsuit, But Richard Prince Is In the Hot Seat Again On Fair Use
    Appropriation art is back in the news, as two of the biggest names in the field navigate the latest legal claims filed against them.
    A few months ago, we wrote about a new lawsuit filed against Jeff Koons over his appropriation of a photograph from a 1980s liquor advertisement.  The defendants in the case (Koons and auction house Phillips) filed answers to the complaint, but in mid-April, the parties informed the court that they had reached a settlement, and the case is now closed.  But shortly after the Koons complaint was filed, another giant of appropriation art, Richard Prince, was haled into court for his latest dance on the line between fair use and copyright infringement. 
  • Supreme Court Declines to Hear Authors’ Google Books Appeal, Leaving Second Circuit’s Fair Use Ruling Intact
    The art-law community pays close attention to legal developments in the copyright arena, including cases involving the fair use defense to copyright infringement. This blog has been watching the Google Books litigation unfold for years; the case deals with whether Google’s ambitious project—in which the search engine company has undertaken a massive initiative to scan, digitize, index, and make publicly available short “snippets” of millions of books, many of which are still under copyright—constitutes infringement of the copyrights in those works. 
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Federal Court Strikes Down California’s Artist Royalties Law As Preempted by Federal Copyright Law
    This blog has previously covered the ongoing litigation concerning California’s Resale Royalties Act (CRRA).  A federal district court recently struck down the state statute on the grounds that it is preempted by federal copyright law, dealing a heavy blow to artists seeking royalties in connection with the resales of their artworks.
  • University of Oklahoma Reaches Settlement With Claimant Over Nazi-Confiscated Pissarro Painting
    After a long legal battle in multiple federal courts, the University of Oklahoma has reached a settlement regarding a claimant’s attempts to recover a Nazi-looted artwork by celebrated Expressionist painter Camille Pissarro.
    We have previously written about this case, which involves a claim by 75-year-old Leone Meyer, who says that the painting, La Bergère Rentrent des Moutons (“Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep”), was stolen from her family by the Nazi regime during World War II. 
  • New Lawsuit Asserts Copyright Infringement of Tattoos
    Move over, graffiti art—the next frontier in federal copyright litigation may be tattoo art.  A lawsuit filed in federal court last month seeks to enforce the intellectual property rights of a group of tattoo artists who created tattoos on several pro basketball stars; the complaint alleges that those rights were infringed when defendants, creators of the video game “NBA 2K16,” incorporated images of the players—including their tattoos—into the game.  See Solid Oak Sketches, LLC v. Visual Concepts LLC et al., S.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-cv-724.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Following Mid-Trial Settlement, Art World Continues to Feel the Aftershocks of the Knoedler Forgery Scandal
    After much legal wrangling, a jury heard testimony last month in the first civil trial arising out of the art forgery scandal that took down one of New York’s most prominent galleries.  The story began in 2011 when word spread that, over the course of more than a decade, the once-venerable Knoedler Gallery had sold about $60 million worth of artworks—purported to be by Pollock, Motherwell, Rothko, de Kooning, and other giants of the Abstract Expressionist movement—that later turned out to be forgeries.  Since then, more details have emerged.
  • Jeff Koons Sued For Copyright Infringement, Again
    Famed “appropriation artist” Jeff Koons was sued in federal court last month over his alleged copyright infringement of a photograph used in a 1986 liquor advertisement. Koons is no stranger to litigation, having been sued on several different occasions for his appropriation art.  The results of those suits have been mixed.  For example, one of his works, “String of Puppies,” in which he created a sculpture based on a photograph without permission from the photographer, became the subject of an important court decision when the Second Circuit rejected Koons’s argument that his copying of the photograph was protected by the fair-use doctrine.
  • Following Summary Judgment Defeat, Knoedler Defendants Settle With Another Group of Plaintiffs
    This blog has written often about the Knoedler scandal, which exploded in 2011 when a once-venerable art gallery closed following revelations that, over the course of more than a decade, it had sold about $60 million worth of artworks—purported to be by Pollock, Motherwell, Rothko, de Kooning, and other giants of the Abstract Expressionist movement—that later turned out to be forgeries.  Our previous posts contain more detail, but in short, the works all came to Knoedler through a Long Island art dealer, Glafira Rosales, who claimed to represent an anonymous collector liquidating a collection of previously-unknown masterworks.  It turned out that the seller was a fiction, and the works were actually created by a little-known artist in Queens at the behest of Rosales (who in 2013 pled guilty to a litany of federal crimes).
  • Second Circuit Rejects Art Authenticator Peter Paul Biro’s Appeal
    Back in 2013, this blog covered the dismissal of a libel case against the New Yorker over its portrayal of an art authenticator.  The Second Circuit has now affirmed that decision, signaling the likely end of this dispute—even as the art world continues to struggle with the complex problem of authentication.
  • Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Collectors’ Claims Against Keith Haring Foundation
    This blog has previously covered the case of Bilinski v. Keith Haring Foundation, Inc., a federal lawsuit filed last year in the Southern District of New York.  Collectors of artworks they believe to be by famed artist Keith Haring, sued the artist’s foundation claiming that it had improperly denied authentication, thereby damaging the value of their holdings.  This past spring, a federal judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims in a decision that explored some of the complex legal issues posed by artist foundations and authentication boards.  The Second Circuit has now affirmed that ruling.
  • In New Lawsuit, Heirs of Dachau Victim Seek Return of Two Schiele Works
    Around this time last year, our blog wrote about the history of two works by Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele.  Both were once owned by Fritz Grünbaum, a Jewish Austrian cabaret performer and art collector who was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1938 and died in Dachau in 1941; it’s unclear what happened to his art during and immediately after World War II, but a handful of the works have surfaced over the years since, sometimes leading to competing claims of ownership.
  • Suit Against Apple Over “Demo Library” Photos Illustrates Importance of Clear Releases
    A recent case against tech giant Apple, Inc. provides important reminders about commercial use of photographs. The plaintiff in the case, Abbey Dykhouse, alleges that in September 2010, a photographer (Della Marie Huff, a freelance photographer, an Apple employee, and a friend of Dykhouse) had taken photographs of Dykhouse and her puppy, Stitch.  Huff later emailed Dykhouse, asking if Apple could use “a few of those photos of Stitch” in “demo libraries,” which are sample photo collections used to demonstrate Apple products at Apple retail stores.  Dykhouse subsequently executed an Apple release form which contemplated the use of photos for one year.  Three years later, though, Dykhouse learned that Apple was not only still including images of Stitch in demo libraries, but it was also using images that showed Dykhouse herself.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Legal Developments
  • In Case Over “Point Break” Spoof, Second Circuit Rules That Copyright Protects Sufficiently Original Fair Use Parodies
    The Second Circuit has issued another important decision in the arena of copyright and fair use.  The ruling clarifies that, where the creator of a parody makes fair use of another work and adds sufficient originality of her own, she may claim copyright protection over the original components of the parody.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Ninth Circuit Explores Copyright’s “Idea/Expression Dichotomy”
    Federal courts continue to grapple with the complex question of when a defendant may successfully invoke the fair-use doctrine as a defense against copyright-infringement claims.  Fair use is a hot topic in copyright law these days, and it has prompted some high-profile litigation and some important recent decisions in the appellate courts.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Second Circuit Affirms “Fair Use” Holding In Authors’ Suit Over Google Books
    Nearly two years ago, we wrote on this blog about the Southern District of New York’s decision ruling that the Google Books Library Project was protected by the fair use doctrine.  Earlier this month, the Second Circuit affirmed that decision, in what may well turn out to be the final word on the legality of Google’s ambitious project. In practical terms, this decision means that for now, after more than a decade of litigation, Google Books is legally in the clear.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Controversy Over Jewish Archives Continues, As Court Enters $43.7 Million Interim Judgment Against Russia
    Back in 2013, this blog discussed the ongoing litigation—and resulting international controversy—over a famous collection of religious books and manuscripts related to the heritage of Chabad-Lubovitch, a Hasidic Jewish organization founded in Russia and now based in New York.  The Russian government, who has control of the collection, has refused to participate in the litigation.  This month, the matter took on new weight as a federal court granted the Chabad-Lubovitch claimants’ request for an interim judgment against the Russian government—to the tune of over $40 million.
  • Ninth Circuit Upholds Copyright Protection for Batmobile
    Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals waded into comic-book history and took an in-depth look at what makes a protectable “character” for purposes of copyright law. The court sided with DC Comics, the owner of the copyright in comic-book crime-fighter Batman, in a case focusing on the caped crusader’s signature vehicle, the Batmobile.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Three New Cases to Watch in the World of Graffiti Art
    As the interest in graffiti art has grown, so too have discussions in artistic and legal circles—including in the courts.  Graffiti was back in the news this summer, highlighted by an interesting trio of court cases involving various issues impacting this unique body of art.
  • In Lawsuit Against Pinterest, Artist Continues a Crusade for Copyright on the Internet
    This blog has covered many examples of the challenges faced by artists in the internet age, from the potential implications for Etsy when its vendors sell counterfeit or infringing products, to the risk that work by independent artists can be swiped and mass-produced for major retailers, to the debate over artist Richard Prince’s appropriation of Instagram snaps.  A recent lawsuit by photographer Christopher Boffoli seeks to hold Internet phenomenon Pinterest accountable when it fails to remove copyrighted material from its platform.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightFine ArtLegal Developments
  • New York Court Dismisses Art-Related Claims Based on Statute of Frauds
    A recent dismissal in New York State Supreme Court, New York County Commercial Division highlights the importance of written contracts in high-value art transactions.  Last week, Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich granted summary judgment to defendants in a case brought by an art and antique dealer, Alexander Komolov, against his former business partners, alleging that they:  (1) sold him several artworks that turned out to be fakes; (2) stole works by Pablo Picasso and Maurice de Vlaminck; and (3) breached an agreement to pay him for a condominium in New York City.  See Komolov v. Segal, Index No. 651626/2011
  • District Court Rules Against Claimants To a Pissarro Work Looted By Nazis
    This blog has covered many recent stories involving Nazi-looted artworks.  In early June, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled on the choice of law to be applied to one such dispute, and in the process dealt a blow to the claimants who were seeking the return of a long-lost artwork.  The case highlights the difficulty of litigating these disputes that not only span decades of time, but also cross borders, jurisdictions, and legal regimes.
  • Disclaimer By Artist Cady Noland Sparks Another Lawsuit
    Conceptual sculptor and artist Cady Noland’s works have garnered international acclaim and set records at auction.  She has also, however, received attention for her complex and sometimes-fraught relationship with her past works.  Last fall, she pointedly refused to endorse a show containing some of her work, and she has in the past expressed her concerns with how her creations are installed, maintained, exhibited, and sold on the secondary market.  Her vigorous oversight of works has even resulted in litigation.  Last week, her purported disavowal of one of her works that had been restored without her permission sparked a new lawsuit, and raised more questions about the scope of an artist’s right to disclaim authorship of her own works.
  • Richard Prince’s Instagram Exhibit Raises Eyebrows and Fair Use Questions
    Famed “appropriation artist” Richard Prince has spent much of his career testing the boundaries of fair use.  He was the defendant in the high-profile case of Cariou v. Prince, which revolved around a 2008 exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery called “Canal Zone,” in which Prince extensively appropriated works from Yes Rasta, a book of works by photographer Patrick Cariou.  Cariou’s ensuing copyright-infringement lawsuit culminated in a 2013 Second Circuit opinion, which held that the majority of Prince’s works constituted fair use of Cariou’s photographs under federal copyright law. 
  • One of the First Restituted Works from Gurlitt Collection to be Sold
    This blog has previously covered the twisting tale of the Gurlitt Collection, a cache of hundreds of artworks discovered in Germany and Austria a few years ago in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of an art dealer authorized by the Nazis to deal in art confiscated, looted, or deemed “degenerate art” by Hitler’s regime. The art world has fiercely debated the best way to handle the collection, a daunting task that was further complicated when Gurlitt himself died last May and bequeathed his entire estate to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketAuctionNazi-looted Art
  • Suit Over Nazi-Confiscated Pissarro Painting Heads from New York to Oklahoma, As Oklahoma Legislators Put Pressure on University
    Recent months have seen interesting developments in a federal lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma to recover an allegedly Nazi-looted painting by famed Expressionist Camille Pissarro. 75-year-old Leone Meyer claims that Nazis stole the painting, Pissarro’s “La Bergère Rentrent des Moutons” (“Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep”), from her family during World War II.  The Jewish family owned a significant stake in Galeries Lafayette (a high-end Paris department store) and had an extensive art collection.  
  • Etsy Faces Class Action over Alleged Concealment of Copyright and Trademark Issues
    Shareholders filed a class-action suit against online marketplace Etsy last week for allegedly failing to disclose in its initial public offering documents that millions of items for sale on the site were either counterfeit or potentially infringing trademarks and copyrights.  Etsy is a peer-to-peer e-commence website that allows artists to create their own stores and sell their creations for a small listing fee and a percentage of their sales revenue.  It provides an important platform for artisans without the following or the means to market and sell their works independently.
  • Ninth Circuit En Banc Decision Upholds Parts of California’s Artist Royalties Law
    Earlier this year, this blog covered a case examining the constitutionality of California Civil Code § 986, known as the California Resale Royalties Act (CRRA).  This week, an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down part of the CRRA as unconstitutional but severed the objectionable portions from the rest of the statutory regime.  The ruling has potentially complex legal and economic implications for those who buy, sell, and trade in high-end art—and places the spotlight on current efforts in Congress to enact a nationwide resale royalty law.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketAuctionLegal Developments
  • Bitter Dispute Between Gallery and Client Illustrates Need For Clarity in Art Deals
    Beginning in the 1990s, art collector Richard McKenzie, Jr. frequently turned to Manhattan’s Forum Gallery and its director Robert Fishko for assistance in purchasing artwork, both for McKenzie’s own collection and for the Seven Bridges Foundation, which McKenzie founded to support emerging artists.  But when McKenzie’s and Fishko’s longstanding relationship went sour and accusations began flying, the result was years of public acrimony and protracted litigation in two different states.  The basic message to have emerged from this bitter legal battle is that clear contracting at the outset any art-related course of dealing often will head off problems before they arise.
  • Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Invasion-of-Privacy Claims Against Photographer Arne Svenson
    Last week, a New York appellate court upheld the dismissal of invasion-of-privacy tort claims against photographer Arne Svenson for his 2012 photography series, “The Neighbors.”  The decision marks an important development concerning the intersection of art and privacy laws.
  • Latest Chapter in Salander-O’Reilly Fallout; Appellate Court Affirms Decision Against Dealer
    For much of the last decade, the art world has been riveted by the story of infamous art dealer Larry Salander.  Around 2007, civil suits and allegations of fraud began to dog the prominent dealer, ultimately leading to Salander’s bankruptcy and the shuttering of the once-great Salander-O’Reilly Galleries.  By 2009, a lengthy criminal investigation revealed that Salander had been bilking customers, artists, and investors for years.  Today, Salander assets are still being sold off to satisfy creditors, and Salander himself is in prison after pleading guilty to charges including grand larceny.  But those who did business with him are still trying to sort out the tangled mess he left behind.   This month, an appeals court has weighed in on one of the cases that arose out of Salander’s complex double-dealing—or in this case, triple-dealing.  This case is yet another example of a recent trend of courts closely scrutinizing buyers’ pre-sale due diligence.
  • Gurlitt’s Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern Upheld; Ongoing Task of Handling Restitution Claims Remains
    This blog, along with the rest of the art world, has followed the twists and turns in the strange story of the Gurlitt Collection, a staggering trove of well over 1,000 artworks amassed by German art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt during the Nazi era.  Our earlier posts review the matter in more detail, but in short, Gurlitt was one of only a few dealers authorized by Nazi leaders to trade in what the Nazis called “degenerate” works of art confiscated or looted by the Nazis; he likely handled works that were looted from persecuted individuals or purchased via duress sales, as well as “degenerate” works removed from German museums to be sold abroad. 
  • Lawsuit Against Keith Haring Foundation Dismissed
    This blog has covered several stories about authentication disputes, including a post about the case of Bilinski v. Keith Haring Foundation, Inc., a federal lawsuit filed last year.  The plaintiffs there, collectors of works they believe to be by famed artist Keith Haring, sued the artist’s foundation for improperly denying authentication.  A federal judge last week dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, in a decision that explores some aspects of the complex role played by artist foundations and authentication boards.
  • Christie's Faces Lawsuit Over Handling of Items from Elizabeth Taylor's Estate
    Last week, the Trustees of the Sothern Trust, an entity tasked with administering the estate of Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor, sued auction giant Christie’s, Inc., bringing a series of claims that delve into the important, complex—and sometimes even conflicting—duties owed by an auction house to its consignors and customers.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketAuctionLegal Developments
  • Decision In Dali Forgery Case Favorable For Art Buyers
    A recent unpublished opinion from a Michigan state appellate court touches on recurring and important themes in recent art-law cases:  the degree to which buyers may rely on a dealer’s representations about a work of art, and the degree of pre-sale diligence required by buyers. See King v. Park West Galleries, Inc., No. 314188 (Mich. Ct. of App., Dec. 2, 2014).
  • New Tax Proposal Could Impact Art Market
    A recent proposal by President Obama regarding a section of the tax code may have important consequences for art investors.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketLegal Developments
  • Graffiti Artist Sues Toll Brothers Over Use of Mural
    This blog has previously examined some of the complex legal issues surrounding graffiti art.  From the public fascination with street artist Banksy to the recent litigation over the destruction of a graffiti art repository at the 5Pointz site in Queens, this genre of art poses unique questions and problems for those who create it, those who own the property where it was created, and those who wish to use images of such works.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: CopyrightLegal Developments
  • Litigation Continues Over Nazi-Confiscated Cranach Diptych: Claims Remanded to District Court
    Federal courts continue to grapple with claims involving a diptych—two painted panels titled Adam and Eve, painted by the famed German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder.  The works are currently in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, but plaintiff Marei Von Saher claims she is their rightful owner.  The case’s history is nearly as convoluted as the history of the artworks—the matter has already made two trips to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, plus two unsuccessful appeals to the Supreme Court—and the courts must grapple with complex threshold considerations before they can even reach the merits of Von Saher’s claims.
  • Ninth Circuit, Sitting En Banc, Rehears Argument On California Law Requiring Payment of Royalties to Artists Upon Resale of Works
    Last week, an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case examining the constitutionality of California Civil Code § 986, known as the California Resale Royalties Act.  The case has potentially important implications for those collecting or dealing in fine art.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketLegal Developments
  • Perelman's Claims Against Gagosian Dismissed, In a Cautionary Tale for Sophisticated Art Buyers
    In the fall of 2012, the MacAndrews & Forbes Group, LLC and MAFG Art Fund, LLC, two holding companies controlled by business mogul Ronald Perelman sued legendary art dealer Larry Gagosian and his Gagosian Gallery over a complex series of transactions involving works by, among others, Cy Twombly and Jeff Koons.  Last week, the case ended with a defeat for Perelman—and a reminder to art buyers that courts are increasingly scrutinizing their pre-sale diligence almost as closely at times as the dealer’s alleged wrongdoing.
  • A New Chapter Begins for the Gurlitt Collection
    This blog has previously covered the strange ongoing saga of the “Gurlitt Collection”—a spectacular trove of well over 1,000 artworks amassed by German art dealer, Hildebrand Gurlitt, during the Nazi era.  Gurlitt was one of only a few dealers authorized by Nazi leaders to trade in “degenerate” works of art that had been confiscated or looted by the Nazis.  After World War II, the Gurlitt family claimed that their artworks had been destroyed during the bombing of the German city of Dresden.
  • As Two Schieles Sell at November Auctions, Debate Continues Over Holocaust-Era Restitution Issues
    During the first week of November, two works by Egon Schiele sold at auction—one at Christie’s and one at Sotheby’s. This blog post examines the troubled stories behind these works, the way the two sales unfolded, and what they can teach us about the current state of art restitution efforts.
  • Federal Appellate Court Case Has Implications for Estate Planning and Taxation of Fractional Art Ownership
    In mid-September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a decision with important tax and estate-planning ramifications for art collectors.  This case is being hailed as a “victory” for collectors in that it supports the general availability of fractional-ownership discounts as a viable tool in the arsenal when it comes to tax and estate planning regarding art assets.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketLegal Developments
  • Recent Seventh Circuit Decision On Copyright Fair Use Defense At Odds With Landmark Second Circuit Ruling
    Earlier this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit addressed the scope of the “fair use doctrine” as a defense to copyright-infringement claims.  In doing so, the court had some harsh words for the Second Circuit’s much-anticipated decision last year in Cariou v. Prince.  The court’s ruling is the latest to analyze the significance of “transformative use” in determining the fair-use defense, and it sets up an interesting divergence among the Circuits on this important topic.
  • In the Arena of Looted and Stolen Art, Spotlight Shifts to Negotiated, Voluntary Repatriation and Restitution
    When it comes to claims involving allegedly looted or stolen art and cultural property, high-profile (and high-stakes) litigation often takes center stage.  But the art world is paying increased attention to the rise of voluntary, negotiated repatriation and restitution of works to claimants.  This option can lead to productive and mutually beneficial dialogues, partnerships, and outcomes; it also requires careful planning and legal advice.
  • Two Recent Cases Highlight The Scope Of Artists Protections Under VARA
    The Visual Artists Rights Act, 17 U.S.C. § 106A (commonly known as VARA) aims to protect artists’ “moral rights” related to the proper attribution of their works, as well as the physical “integrity” of the works themselves.  A survey in 2003 concluded that the law was still little-used, although awareness of VARA was increasing.  As the Wall Street Journal observed in 2010, the contours of VARA are continually evolving.  Over the past year, two lawsuits have highlighted some of the ongoing questions about how VARA protects the rights of artists, particularly when the art at issue has been created on property owned by someone else.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Legal Developments
  • Three Recent Suits Exemplify Some of the Legal Issues Surrounding Art Authentication
    In the last few months, three different lawsuits have been filed that highlight some of the legal complications involved in seeking, offering, or relying upon authentication of works of art.  We intend to follow closely each of these cases, and other important legal developments concerning art authentication.
  • Legal Dispute Brewing Over Hundreds of Ancient Artifacts
    Italy is threatening legal action after the British government refused to return 700 ancient artifacts that were seized from disgraced London art dealer Robin Symes. Maurizio Fiorilli, the Italian state legal counsel overseeing the case, claims that the disputed objects, largely Etruscan sculptures, jewelry, and vases, were excavated illegally and then sold illicitly.
    ATTORNEY: Lindsay E. Hogan
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketProvenance
  • Second Circuit Decision Highlights Risks of Inadequate Pre-Sale Diligence in Art Sales
    Last year, this blog covered a federal court’s decision involving New York-based ACA Galleries, Inc.’s purchase of a painting purportedly created by artist Milton Avery.  In a recent decision affirming that opinion, the Second Circuit reiterated the warning to galleries and collectors about the importance of completing comprehensive due diligence before purchasing any work of art.
  • New York's Highest Court Rules That Auction Sellers May Remain Anonymous
    Earlier this week, the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) issued a much-anticipated decision upholding the auction industry’s longstanding practice of allowing sellers to remain anonymous. Given the importance of auction houses to the art market, and the importance of consignor anonymity to that market, this decision will likely be greeted with relief by many in the art world.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketAuctionLegal Developments
  • Sotheby's Agrees to Return Disputed Statue to Cambodia After Protracted Court Battle
    After a long court battle, an ancient Cambodian statue, consigned to Sotheby’s for sale in 2011, will be returned to that country under an agreement signed last week.  The Khmer statue, valued at over $2 million, was pulled from auction because of assertions it had been looted from the Prasat Chen temple site at Koh Ker.
  • Former Knoedler President Ann Freedman Reaches Settlement with Fellow Art Dealer in Defamation Suit
    This firm’s attorneys were involved in the very first suit arising out of the infamous forgery scandal against the now-defunct Knoedler Gallery. Since then, this blog has covered ongoing developments in the strange story of a once-venerable art gallery’s involvement in the sale of dozens of paintings masquerading as works by twentieth-century masters like Pollock, Rothko, and de Kooning.  The works were in fact created by a little-known artist working in Queens, and marketed by Long Island art dealer Glafira Rosales, who has since pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges arising out of the scheme.
  • Sale of Hopi Artifacts Goes Forward Despite Legal and Moral Protests
    Last month, the Hopi tribe took Eve auction house to court in an effort to block the sale of 25 sacred artifacts, which the tribe believes are imbued with divine spirits. In spite of this legal—not to mention, moral—challenge, a French court allowed the Paris auction house to proceed with the December 9th sale. The Native American tribe maintains that the objects were stolen and that selling them amounts to sacrilege.
  • Copyright Claims Against Google Books Dismissed on "Fair Use" Grounds
    This blog has previously covered the putative class action involving the Google Books Library Project, Google’s ongoing effort to collect and scan millions of books (included copyrighted works) to make them searchable online.  The case of Authors Guild v. Google (No. 05-08136) was initiated in 2005 by authors claiming that Google’s process of scanning, digitizing, indexing, and making publicly available short “snippets” of their books is copyright infringement.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Legal Developments
  • Germany Takes Steps to Promote Transparency in Gurlitt Case
    Amid criticism from groups representing Holocaust victims and their heirs and growing international pressure to disclose more information about the cache of art found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, Germany has announced that it will speed provenance research of the artworks, as well as begin to publish online details about the works.
  • Discord at the Dia Art Foundation Over Planned Sale of Artworks
    Since 1974, the Dia Art Foundation has worked to support innovative contemporary artists.  Over the years, the Foundation has commissioned groundbreaking works and mounted and maintained installations and exhibitions from New York to New Mexico to Germany. But a rift between some of its original founders and the Dia’s current leadership has led to litigation over the fate of some iconic works in the Foundation’s collection, and debate over the mission and future of the organization itself.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: AuctionLegal Developments
  • Trove of Nazi-looted Art Discovered in Munich Apartment, But Questions Remain
    In September 2010, aboard a train from Switzerland, German customs agents were carrying out a routine check when they approached Cornelius Gurlitt.  The man, who seemed nervous, was in possession of 9,000 euros and was not registered with the police—which is mandatory in Germany.  Officials issued a search warrant for his Munich apartment, expecting to find undeclared euros or evidence of questionable bank accounts.
  • Family Of Alexander Calder Sues The Family Of His Longtime Dealer
    From 1954 until his death in 1976, famed sculptor Alexander Calder was represented by Manhattan dealer Klaus Perls.  Over the course of more than two decades, the pair forged a close friendship as well.  Their contributions to the art world are formidable; Calder’s groundbreaking mobile works sell for millions of dollars, while Perls was a highly respected dealer and collector who donated more than $60 million worth of masterworks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art prior to his death in 2008.  Now, both men are gone, and their families are in court amid allegations that Perls defrauded Calder’s estate and sold dozens of fake Calder works.
  • Artist Alleges Wholesaler Copied Her Work: A Look at Copyright Infringement in the World of the Independent Artist
    On October 16, California-based artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon posted an entry on her blog entitled “My Art Was Stolen For Profit (and How You Can Help).”  In it, she laid out her claim that wholesale company Cody Foster & Co., which sells ornaments and other home-décor items to retailers around the world, had copied some of her artwork to make a set of holiday ornaments, and then marketed the ornaments for sale—without permission by or compensation to Congdon.  This matter highlights critical issues for copyright holders, would-be copyright infringers, and merchants who sell potentially infringing works.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketLegal Developments
  • Dealers' Heirs Seek Restitution of Bode Museum's Guelph Treasure
    At the center of one of Germany’s largest restitution claims is the Berlin portion of the Guelph Treasure, a trove of ecclesiastical art, largely comprised of gem-encrusted reliquaries and crosses, dating from the 11th through 15th centuries.   The hoard of precious objects was originally housed in the Braunschweig cathedral, and in 1671 it passed into the hands of the princely House of Guelph.
  • District Court Keeps Intact Many Claims In Knoedler Forgery Suit
    Our attorneys were involved in the very first suit arising out of the infamous forgery scandal against the now-shuttered Knoedler Gallery. And this blog has covered multiple chapters since, detailing along the way the remarkable twists and turns in the dramatic tale of Knoedler’s involvement in the sales of dozens of works purportedly created by some of the top artists of the twentieth century—including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and Willem de Kooning—that have since been revealed as fakes.
  • Former Knoedler President Ann Freedman Sues New York Dealer Over Comments in Article on Knoedler Scandal
    The art world remains riveted by the still-unfolding scandal involving the once-renowned Knoedler Gallery.  To recap, over the course of more than a decade, Knoedler solddozens of works of art purportedly created by some of the most sought-after artists of the twentieth century—works that have since been widely discredited as fakes.  A Long Island art dealer named Glafira Rosales—who has now pleaded guilty, among other things, to charges of wire fraud, filing false tax returns and money laundering—allegedly told the Knoedler Gallery at the time that she represented an anonymous collector who was gradually liquidating his late father’s remarkable art collection.
  • Salander-OReilly Fallout Continues: Dispute Over Painting Hinges on Dealers Failure to Make Adequate Pre-Sale Inquiries
    The once-renowned Salander-O’Reilly Galleries imploded around 2007 after a number of customers and business partners sued owner and art dealer Lawrence B. Salander for allegedly defrauding them.  By the end of 2007, Salander had filed for bankruptcy; by 2010, he was serving a prison term for grand larceny.  The legal fallout from his story, however, continues today—as illustrated by a recent court decision. This case reminds those who buy and sell art that diligence is paramount—no matter how trusted the seller, and no matter how savvy the buyer.
  • Longtime Assistant to Jasper Johns Charged With Stealing 22 of the Artists Works
    James Meyer worked as an assistant to famed contemporary artist Jasper Johns for a quarter of a century.  Meyer, himself an artist, observed Johns at work, learned about his techniques, and witnessed the trajectory of a remarkable artistic career as Johns became one of the most well-known and sought-after artists of our time.  Johns, now 83, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in 2011, and his works have commanded stratospheric prices (one work, Flag, sold at Christie’s in 2010 for $28.6 million).
  • On the Heels of the Second Circuits Cariou Decision, Ninth Circuit Discusses Fair Use Defense to Copyright Infringement
    In April we discussed the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ much-anticipated decision in Cariou v. Prince, which explored the “fair use” defense in copyright-infringement cases.  The Cariou decision was of great interest to the art community because of its implications for “appropriation” art, which incorporates or builds off of the copyrighted works of others.  This month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued another important opinion involving the application of the fair use defense in the context of appropriation art.  The case involved the rock band Green Day’s unauthorized use of an image by artist Dereck Seltzer in the band’s video backdrop for its live concerts.  In an opinion authored by Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, a three-judge panel upheld a summary judgment in favor of Green Day.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Legal Developments
  • Judge Dismisses Libel Suit Over New Yorker Story on Art Authentication
    In July 2010, the New Yorker published an article about Peter Paul Biro, an art expert who has made a name for himself by using forensic techniques to authenticate artworks.  Mr. Biro, displeased with the magazine’s portrayal of him and his methods, brought claims for libel (i.e., defamation through written statements) against the writer, David Grann, and the magazine’s parent company, Condé Nast.
  • With City in Bankruptcy, a Museums Fate May Hang in the Balance
    On July 18, the city of Detroit, Michigan filed for bankruptcy.  Since the mid-1950s, only about 60 municipalities have filed under Chapter 9, the bankruptcy proceeding used by municipalities—and of those, Detroit’s is by far the largest municipal bankruptcy filing (in terms of debt) in American history.  The exact amount the city owes is unclear, but estimates range from $18 billion to $20 billion.  The bankruptcy process will be rife with complex issues, including whether the city is truly eligible for bankruptcy, whether public employees and retirees will need to accept a reduction in their expected employment and retirement benefits, and how best to move Detroit forward in a way that will stimulate growth and long-term stability.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketAuctionMuseums
  • Thefts Highlight Security Vulnerabilities at Libraries and Archives
    Two recent criminal investigations illustrate the security challenges faced every day by libraries, record depositories, and other collections of books and documents. For reasons discussed below, institutions exploring security options for their archival collections should consult both legal counsel and security experts who can help formulate a strategy that makes sense for an institution’s unique needs.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art ExhibitionsMuseums
  • Gift From Christies Leader and Exhibition By Ai Weiwei Mark Latest Chapters in the Story of the Chinese Zodiac Head Sculptures
    The long saga of an iconic set of bronze Chinese sculptures continues.  In the 1700s, European Jesuits employed by the imperial court during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) designed a dozen sculptures—giant bronze animal heads representing the twelve figures of the Chinese zodiac. The sculptures were originally part of a clock-fountain, with the heads spouting water to mark the hours.  The fountain was located in the celebrated gardens of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing until, in 1860, the palace was beset by French and British troops during the Second Opium War.  The zodiac heads became the spoils of war, looted and spirited away.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art ExhibitionsFine Art
  • Cleveland Museum of Art Cancels Planned Exhibition of Sicilian Art: A Cautionary Tale About Art Loans
    A few weeks ago, we discussed tensions between Sicilian cultural officials and two American museums regarding an exhibition of ancient artworks and artifacts from Sicily.  The works have been on display at the Getty Villa in Malibu, California, and they were scheduled to travel to the Cleveland Museum of Art in September—until Sicilian officials decided that the ongoing loan of some of the most prominent works was damaging Sicily’s tourism trade.  The complaints threw a wrench into the planned exhibits, particularly as there was no signed contract governing the terms of the overseas loans of artworks from Sicily to the two museums.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art ExhibitionsMuseums
  • Legal Battle Over Google Books Library Project Continues: Second Circuit Weighs In On Impact Of Fair-Use Defense For Class Certification
    Litigation continues over the Google Books Library Project, an effort by tech giant Google to collect and provide search capability across millions of books.  The case of Authors Guild v. Google, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 13389 (2d Cir. July 1, 2013), first filed in 2005, is a putative class action involving copyright-infringement claims by authors challenging Google’s process of scanning, digitizing, indexing, and making publicly available short “snippets” of their books (and millions of other copyrighted books from major libraries).  The Second Circuit’s recent decision vacating class certification and directing the trial court to consider the fair-use defense in connection with plaintiffs’ class-certification motion is emblematic of the continuing challenges of applying traditional copyright law to new issues posed by digital technology, especially in the class context.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Legal Developments
  • Appeals Court Affirms Summary Judgment for Sothebys In Lawsuit Involving Artists Disclaimer of Authorship Under VARA
    A recent appellate decision upheld Sotheby’s right to withdraw a work from auction based on contemporary artist Cady Noland’s disclaimer of authorship of a work under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (17 U.S.C. § 106A) (“VARA”). While the court resolved questions of Sotheby’s rights to withdraw the work under its standard-form consignment agreement, the court did not have the occasion to examine the contours of the artist’s disclaimer rights under VARA. In the meantime, though, VARA continues to be an effective weapon to be used by artists to protect their moral rights.
  • Major Exhibition of Sicilian Antiquities Highlights Reasons Not To Lend (Or Borrow) Works In The Absence Of A Contract
    This spring, the Getty Villa in Malibu, California introduced an exhibition of remarkable ancient works from Sicily.  The exhibit, titled “Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome,” features works ranging from rare coins to engraved battle gear; together, the works speak to Sicily’s unique role as a crossroads and center of artistic innovation in the classical world.  The Getty exhibition closes in August, after which the works were scheduled to be displayed at the Cleveland Museum of Art this fall.  The Getty spent nearly $1 million to mount the show, which the New York Times has called “the first major survey of ancient Sicilian art in the United States.”
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art ExhibitionsMuseums
  • Israel Museum Restitutes Important Nazi-Looted Liebermann Landscape
    In 1941, Max Liebermann’s landscape masterpiece, Garden in Wansee (1923) was seized by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, a Nazi art-confiscation agency, from the collection of Jewish businessman, Max Cassirer.  Recently, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem announced that it had restituted the painting  to Cassirer’s heir.  As per the settlement, the Museum returned the painting to the heir and then re-acquired it, allowing it to remain in the Museum’s collection, accessible to the public.
  • Museums Weigh Competing Interests When It Comes to Digital Images
    As discussed in a recent New York Times article, museums around the world are reevaluating their approach to distributing images of their collections in an increasingly digital world.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Fine ArtMuseums
  • Citing Museums Greater Interest, Dutch Commission Rejects Heirs Claims To Nazi Looted Works
    In 1933, Jewish industrialist Richard Semmel sold four paintings at auction under duress as a result of Nazi persecution.  Now, the Dutch Restitutions Committee, which can give binding opinions in matters of disputed art, has rejected claims by Semmel’s heirs for three of the four paintings.
  • The Met To Return Two Pieces Of Ancient Khmer Art To Cambodia
    After months of negotiations between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Cambodian officials, the Met has decided to return to Cambodia two 10th-century Khmer statues that had been improperly removed from the Koh Ker temple complex and then smuggled out of the country during the 1970s. The two sandstone statues, known as the Kneeling Attendants, had stood prominently at the entrance to the museum’s Southeast Asian galleries since 1994.
    ATTORNEY: Lindsay E. Hogan
    CATEGORIES: MuseumsProvenance
  • The Second Circuit's Decision in Cariou v. Prince: The Fair Use Defense To Copyright Infringement
    On April 25, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an important decision about the “fair use” defense in copyright infringement cases.  The court’s ruling will have implications for artists and galleries, especially those who create or deal in artwork that incorporates or builds off the work of others.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art GalleriesLegal Developments
  • D.C. Circuit Revives Claims Seeking Return Of Nazi-Seized Art
    The D.C. Circuit ruled recently that the heirs of a legendary Hungarian art collector could proceed with their claims against Hungary to recover eleven works seized by the Nazis notwithstanding a Hungarian court ruling to the contrary.  See De Csepel v. Republic of Hung., 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 7837 (D.C. Cir. April 19, 2013).  This decision highlights the many legal issues—and obstacles—involved in cases seeking the return of art stolen during World War II.
  • Court Dismisses Lawsuit Over Limited Edition Eggleston Photographs
    The Southern District of New York recently dismissed a lawsuit by plaintiff Jonathan Sobel concerning his collection of eight photographs by William Eggleston.  Sobel v. Eggleston et al., 12-CV-02551 (S.D.N.Y.).  The case raises a cautionary flag for art collectors who are interested in purchasing photographs and other works that can be produced in “multiples.”
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketLegal Developments
  • Modest Sales of Pre-Columbian Artifacts Reflect Market's Reluctance to Acquire Objects With Questionable Provenance
    In mid-March, the Mexican government demanded that Sotheby’s withdraw fifty-one Pre-Columbian Mexican artifacts from an upcoming sale, stating that they are protected historical pieces that constitute Mexican national property.  Peru, Guatemala, and Costa Rica also voiced their objections to the sale, bringing the total number of contested lots to roughly one third of the total 313 lots.
    ATTORNEY: Lindsay E. Hogan
    CATEGORIES: Art MarketAuctionProvenance
  • Passing of Acclaimed Artist and Dealer Raises Complicated Legal Issues
    Charleston-born, New York-based artist Merton D. Simpson passed away recently at the age of 84.  As a recent New York Times article reports, he left behind a formidable collection of art, a legacy of mastery as a painter—and a tangle of legal issues.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Art Galleries
  • Christie's Online Only Warhol Auction Scheduled To Begin February 26
    As announced last fall, in a shift to become almost exclusively a grant-making organization, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is dispersing its entire collection of Warhols, donating some and selling others through Christie’s auction house.
    ATTORNEY: Judd B. Grossman
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Four And Counting: Knoedler Sued Yet Again Over Sale Of Allegedly Counterfeit Painting
    Knoedler, founded by Michael Knoedler in 1846, was for many years one of the oldest and most prominent American art galleries.  But earlier this year, amid reports of a federal forgery investigation focusing on Knoedler’s sales of artworks that—despite attribution to Modernist masters—have no documented provenance, Knoedler’s reputation has gone the way of its business (Knoedler shuttered its doors unexpectedly in December 2011).  The lawsuits followed.
    ATTORNEY: Judd B. Grossman
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • New York Times Draws Attention to (Lack of) Art Market Oversight
    A recent New York Times article shines a spotlight on the subject of whether and how to seek more transparency in the art market. The article explores the sometimes-competing interests of auction houses, galleries, museums, and collectors when it comes to ensuring that art transactions are governed by clear and fair disclosures and rules. It also provides an overview of some of the possible reforms that have been proposed in recent years.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • A Longstanding Dispute Over Jewish Collection Takes A New Twist, With International Repercussions for Diplomacy and Art
    For years, Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic Jewish organization based in New York, has sought the return of two sets of religious books and manuscripts related to the group’s heritage, collectively known as known as the Schneerson Collection.  One group of records, comprising about 12,000 religious texts, was seized around the time of the Russian Revolution.  The other set, made up of about 25,000 pages of handwritten manuscripts by the group’s past religious leaders, was stolen by Nazi German forces during World War II, and then seized by the Red Army and transported to the Soviet Union, where they currently are housed primarily in the Russian State Military Archive and the Russian State Library.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Continuing the Hunt To Recover Nazi Looted Art
    As Nazi forces bombed and invaded Europe during World War II, they also stole an estimated five million works of art and cultural objects from museums, universities, and private collectors alike.  As a recent New York Times article points out, great efforts have been made—and continue to be made—to recover those stolen works, some of which have popped up where some would least expect to find them.
    ATTORNEY: Lindsay E. Hogan
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Lawsuit Over Confidential Sale of Rothko Masterpiece Continues, Highlighting the Need for Proper Contracts in Art Sales
    Multi-million-dollar transactions involving real estate, loans, or investments are virtually always governed by thorough and comprehensive contracts negotiated and drafted by lawyers.  Why, then, are such agreements rarely used in connection with the purchase and sale of high-end art?  A recent decision in a federal lawsuit arising from the $17 million sale of a Mark Rothko painting highlights that the art market’s seemingly ubiquitous practice of using one-page invoices, rather than adequate written contracts, invites burdensome—and potentially avoidable—litigation.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Warhol Foundation Assists the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art In Launching New Fund
    Earlier this year, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts disbanded its authentication committee in part to reflect its intent to shift focus toward maximizing “grant making and other charitable activities.”  Earlier this week, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art announced that with the support of the Warhol Foundation, it will launch the Precipice Fund, a new grant-giving initiative for Portland-based unincorporated visual art collectives, alternative spaces, and collaborative projects.  The fund aims to provide fifteen to twenty small grants, ranging from five hundred to five thousand dollars, for a total of seventy-five thousand dollars annually.
    ATTORNEY: Judd B. Grossman
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Milton Avery Painting Cannot Be Authenticated, But Purchaser's Legal Claims Fail: A Reminder About The Importance Of Pre-Sale Diligence
    A recent decision by a federal judge in the Southern District of New York stands as a stark warning to galleries and collectors about the importance of completing comprehensive due diligence before purchasing any work of art.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Recent Decision Analyzes Substantial Similarity Of Photographs For Purposes Of Copyright Infringement Claims
    In a recent decision in Harney v. Sony Pictures Television, Inc., No. 11-1760, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit analyzed the complex question of whether two photographs are “substantially similar” for purposes of a copyright-infringement claim. The court’s discussion will be of interest to photographers, filmmakers, and artists who incorporate photographs into their works, as it sheds light on what originality a photo display needs in order to be protected by copyright laws.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Innocent Owner Defense Cannot Defeat Forfeiture of Stolen Art Under Customs Law
    The Art Loss Register—the world’s largest database of stolen art—lists almost 400,000 works as stolen.  A decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Davis, 648 F.3d 84 (2d Cir. 2011) highlights the problems faced even by “innocent owners” of stolen art, and serves as a reminder of the importance of confirming a work’s provenance before purchasing it, particularly when the work originated abroad.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Modigliani Institute President Embroiled In Forgery Investigation
    The Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani is considered to be one of the most faked artists in history.  So it is unsurprising that there are more than a handful of unsuspecting owners of counterfeit Modiglianis.
    ATTORNEY: Judd B. Grossman
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Art Advisory Panel Reviews Art Appraisals for the IRS
    As tax season nears, taxpayers may be interested to learn that the Internal Revenue Service enlists an Art Advisory Panel—a team of prominent art scholars, dealers, and curators—to make recommendations regarding the value of works of art involved in income, estate, and gift tax returns.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Vienna's Jewish Museum Home to Hundreds of Looted Objects
    Austrian museums are no strangers to the issues surrounding the restitution of Nazi-looted art to their rightful owners.  Perhaps the most well-known case is that of Egon Schiele’s Portrait of Wally, which was exhibited to the public last year for the first time in over a decade after the Leopold Museum reached a $19 million settlement with the heirs of Lea Bondi—the painting’s owner at the time it was seized by the Nazis in 1939.
    ATTORNEY: Lindsay E. Hogan
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Unprecedented Insurance Losses In The Wake Of Hurricane Sandy
    Although Chelsea galleries were not fully up and running by mid-December, as some had initially hoped, the recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy continue.   At the same time as construction workers and gallery staff continue to rebuild onsite, insurance claims mount.  AXA Art Insurance, one of the largest art insurers, expects to pay out $40 million to New York art galleries damaged by the hurricane, while Reuters is reporting that physical damage to the galleries themselves as well as art losses may reach $500 million—the largest loss the art world and its insurers have ever sustained.
    ATTORNEY: Lindsay E. Hogan
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Gifting Artwork Is Not Always A Simple Matter
    We wrote yesterday about the legal considerations raised by a museum’s accessioning of artwork.  In today’s New York Times, Patricia Cohen discusses additional issues that may arise when museums are challenged with trying to honor “donor intent.”
    ATTORNEY: Judd B. Grossman
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Recent Case Highlights That Gifting Artwork Is Not Always A Simple Matter
    Museums acquire artworks in a variety of ways, including through gifts and bequests from private collectors.  Though the legal considerations raised by a museum’s accessioning of artwork may vary based on the purpose and nature of the gift, in any case the parties should seek legal counsel and properly document the transaction by a comprehensive written agreement.
    ATTORNEY: Kate Lucas
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • The Billion Dollar Week—Contemporary Art Auction Sales Soar
    Collectors lined up to spend record amounts at this week’s contemporary art auctions in New York City.  On Wednesday, Christie’s contemporary-art auction brought in a record $412.2 million. And the evening before, Sotheby’s set a record of its own, bringing in $375.1 million, the highest total for any sale in Sotheby’s history. Thursday’s evening sale at Phillips de Pury, while far behind its larger peers, was solid in its own right, totaling $79.9 million, in the middle of the pre-sale-estimate range.
    ATTORNEY: Judd B. Grossman
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Second Circuit Court of Appeals Allows the Metropolitan Museum of Art To Retain a Cézanne Masterpiece Confiscated By the Bolsheviks In 1918
    Pierre Konowaloff is the sole heir to the estate of his great-grandfather, Ivan Morozov, a Russian national whose modern-art collection—which included a Cézanne painting known as Madam Cézanne in the Conservatory (the “Painting”)—ranked among Europe’s finest before World War I.  On December 19, 1918, the Bolsheviks decreed that Morozov’s art collection, including the Painting, was “state property,” and therefore it confiscated all Morozov’s artwork.
    ATTORNEY: Judd B. Grossman
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Resale Royalty Laws: Whats All The Fuss?
    Six years ago, a resale royalty law was passed in the United Kingdom requiring a percentage of profits from secondary-market art sales to be paid to the artist or her estate.  Some cried that the law would cripple the British art market, positing that collectors would not buy contemporary art if they also had to pay a resale royalty on top of already skyrocketing prices.  But these fears have not been realized, as demonstrated by the continuing trend of healthy sales for modern and contemporary works.  A Christie’s spokesman said that the royalty law has, in fact, proven to be “pretty irrelevant” and not much of a topic for discussion in the art world.
    ATTORNEY: Judd B. Grossman
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Recovering From the Storm
    In a recent post we looked at the immediate impact of Hurricane Sandy on the New York art world, in particular the gallery-dotted Chelsea neighborhood.  The most immediate concern was salvage and conservation, and in the past month there has been considerable progress. In Brooklyn, for example, a 90,000-square-foot warehouse has been transformed into an artwork “emergency room.”  The impromptu art recovery center, with its climate-controlled storage rooms and staff of on-site conservators, consultants, and art handlers, has been a destination for dozens of artists, gallery owners, and collectors.  Leslie Gat, director of the Art Conservation Group, characterized the effort as a “M.A.S.H. unit” with the goal of “stabilizing the effects of the flood.”
    ATTORNEY: Lindsay E. Hogan
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Suit Against Sotheby's Dismissed Based On Artist's Disclaimer of Authorship
    After artist Cady Noland disclaimed authorship of one of her works (the “Work”) under the Visual Artists Rights Act (“VARA”) based on her assertion that the Work had been damaged subsequent to its creation, she demanded that Sotheby’s withdraw it from an upcoming auction. Sotheby’s obliged, citing to the section in its standard consignment agreement with the Work’s owner, Marc Jancou Fine Art Ltd. (“Jancou”), providing, among other things, that Sotheby’s could withdraw the Work at any time before sale if, “in its sole judgment,” “there is doubt as to [the work’s] authenticity or attribution.”
    ATTORNEY: Judd B. Grossman
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • After the Storm: The Impact of Sandy On the New York Art World
    All of New York has felt the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy—the art world is no exception. With the Fall auction season approaching, for example, major auction houses have been trying to refocus collectors’ attentions on the upcoming sales. Sotheby’s even postponed its first major sale of Impressionist and modern art to give potential bidders more time to get in and preview the offerings.
    ATTORNEY: Lindsay E. Hogan
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized
  • Authentic Picasso Re-Discovered After Forty Years In Storage
    This past February, Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s auction house in New York, called the Evansville Museum to inquire about a layered glass mosaic by Picasso, entitled Seated Woman with Red Hat, whose provenance he had traced to the museum. Though museum officials at first thought Ettinger was mistaken, in fact the artwork had been stashed in a shipping crate in the museum for over forty years, mislabeled and all but forgotten.
    ATTORNEY: Lindsay E. Hogan
    CATEGORY: Uncategorized