An Update On Two Art Cases In the News: Trial Postponed in Christie’s Diamond Case, While Fraud Case Against Wildenstein Proceeds
12/02/2019This fall has seen developments in two cases we’ve been following. Each case raises unique substantive legal issues, but the recent developments also serve to highlight the costs and complexity of litigating art disputes in court.
Trial Looms In Case Over Ownership of Diamond
10/31/2019A trial is now imminent in a years-long, trans-Atlantic dispute over who is the rightful owner of a massive diamond. The case, Angiolillo v. Christie’s et al. (Case No. 650871/2015, N.Y. Co.) is of interest to the art world because it implicates some of the same themes that often crop up in art title cases—questions ranging from whether a claimant has unreasonably delayed in asserting its rights, to how much an auction house is required to do to verify the title of an item it plans to auction.
Damages Awarded, But Both Sides Claim Victory, In Lawsuit Involving Allegedly “Scraped” Auction Data
08/19/2019An arbitrator recently ordered a sister company of auction giant Christie’s to pay nearly $1.8 million in damages to another auction house, Heritage Auctions, based on Heritage’s claims related to alleged theft of its auction data. The case serves as a reminder that art businesses depend on information, and may need to consider how they should collect, protect, and appropriately use valuable confidential data.
Russian Collector’s Claims Against Sotheby’s Clear Initial Hurdle
In Ongoing Rybolovlev-Bouvier Feud
07/19/2019For years now, we have followed the bitter dispute between Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire, and his onetime art dealer, Swiss businessman Yves Bouvier. Now, a new ruling permits Rybolovlev-affiliated entities to move forward with claims that auction house Sotheby’s facilitated Bouvier’s purported fraud. (The news comes on the heels of last month’s announcement that Sotheby’s is being acquired by French-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi, in a deal that will take the auction house off the publicly-traded stock market and put it back in private hands.)
Old Master Forgery Story Update: New Developments In Two Sotheby’s Lawsuits to Recover Proceeds From Sales of Alleged Fakes
04/12/2019We have written on several occasions (see here, here, and here) about the tangle of disputes that have arisen from the discovery of multiple suspected forgeries of Old Master artworks. Now, one such dispute has reached a settlement, and another has resulted in a judgment for Sotheby’s; but other questions about these works, and the Old Master market generally, remain.
Collector Sues London Art Gallery for Failing to Disclose Price History of Two Paintings
02/20/2019A lawsuit pending in the United Kingdom continues the ongoing debate about how much due diligence buyers must perform when purchasing artwork, including whether such buyers must investigate price histories.
Judge Refuses to Halt Sotheby’s Auction of Monumental Basquiat Work
05/11/2018Earlier this week, Justice O. Peter Sherwood of the New York County Supreme Court rejected collector Hubert Neumann’s attempt to prevent Sotheby’s from auctioning off Jean-Michael Basquiat’s monumental work, Flesh and Spirit.
Recently Adopted Anti-Money Laundering Directive Will Significantly Affect European Art Market
05/02/2018On April 19, the European Parliament—the legislative body of the European Union—adopted the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive. The new legislation will significantly affect Europe’s art market, and prominent members of the art world have already expressed their concerns about the practical consequences of the Directive.
Old Master Forgery Story Update: Sotheby’s Files Another Suit To Recover Sale Proceeds, This Time From Sale of Allegedly Fake Hals
03/09/2017In 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.
Auction Houses Head To Court Over Allegedly “Scraped” Sales Data
12/20/2016In 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).
Fake Old Master Painting Uncovered in Europe Raises Fears of More Sophisticated Forgeries on the Market
11/02/2016The 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.
Appellate Court Sides with Defendants In Lawsuit Over "Confidential" Sale of Rothko Masterpiece
10/11/2016We 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.
Victory For the Norman Simon Museum In Latest Chapter of Dispute Over Nazi-Confiscated Cranach Diptych
08/24/2016We 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.
Federal Court Strikes Down California’s Artist Royalties Law As Preempted by Federal Copyright Law
04/19/2016This 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.
Jeff Koons Sued For Copyright Infringement, Again
01/10/2016Famed “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.
One of the First Restituted Works from Gurlitt Collection to be Sold
05/29/2015This 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.
Ninth Circuit En Banc Decision Upholds Parts of California’s Artist Royalties Law
05/14/2015Earlier 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.
Christie's Faces Lawsuit Over Handling of Items from Elizabeth Taylor's Estate
03/04/2015Last 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.
Decision In Dali Forgery Case Favorable For Art Buyers
02/25/2015A 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).
As Two Schieles Sell at November Auctions, Debate Continues Over Holocaust-Era Restitution Issues
12/02/2014During 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.
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