Case of Forged Golub Works Will Move Forward
Art collector 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.
The Gascards moved to dismiss Hall’s case in January 2017, arguing that Hall should be held responsible for his failure to conduct pre-sale diligence, and that as a sophisticated art collector he should have made inquiries or obtained expert opinions before agreeing to purchase the works.
But the New Hampshire court was unpersuaded by the Gascards’ attempt to extend the due-diligence requirements that courts have imposed on art galleries and dealers (as we discuss in our previous post on this case) on an individual purchaser like Hall. The Gascards argued that the onus should have been on Hall to independently verify the authenticity of the works prior to purchase. In his opposition, Hall countered that he had no such responsibility to investigate where there were no red flags at the time indicating that the works may have been forged.
In a June 12, 2017, Order, Judge Steven J. McAuliffe found that Hall adequately alleged that his reliance on the Gascards’ false statements of provenance and authenticity was justifiable, and upheld Hall’s fraud claims. As the court noted, the reasonableness of a party’s reliance may be a factual question to be resolved by the jury, and whether this issue can be resolved on summary judgment is “at this juncture, unclear.” But for the time being, the court has declined to penalize a private collector for his reliance on and failure to investigate sellers’ statements. The case is slated for trial in March of 2018.
Art Law Blog