Category Archives: Litigation

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Last Wishes, First Impression: Potential legal issues arise after Munich recluse passes away, bequeathing Nazi-looted art to a Swiss museum

Cornelius Gurlitt’s notarized will, which did not surface until after his unexpected death this past May, lists the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland as the heir to his vast art collection, which included works by Matisse, Dix, and Chagall. The unusual legal issue here: one month before his death, Conelius Gurlitt agreed to return all Nazi-looted … Continue Reading

French Court Supports Freedom of Authentication: A Win for Art Experts

Recently, the high court of appeals in Paris upheld an art expert’s right to refuse to authenticate a work of art.  While this decision took nine years to come to fruition, it validates an art expert’s freedom to make an authenticity determination that he or she sees fit, free from the pressures of legal liability … Continue Reading

Mum’s the Word: New York’s Highest Court Maintains Anonymity in Auction Sales

In late 2012, we reported on a New York Appellate Division order that sent shockwaves and fear of instability through the auction house world.  Late last month, the New York Court Appeals issued its opinion in the case of William J. Jenack Estate Appraisers and Auctioneers, Inc. v. Rabizadeh, overturning the Appellate Division and ruling … Continue Reading

Caveat Consignor

Auction houses typically do not disclose the identity of the seller on their sales contracts. A recent New York trial court decision may drastically change that longstanding practice. The auction trade is supply-driven. As such, it heavily depends on sellers – and those sellers usually want to remain anonymous. Consignors have various motives for keeping … Continue Reading

My Fellow Californians – Our Long National Nightmare is Over

By Christine Steiner In the same era Gerald Ford advised his fellow Americans that “our long national nightmare is over,” as he succeeded Richard Nixon as president, the California Legislation enacted the sloppily-drafted California Resale Royalty Act, Civil Code Section 986. The act was not exactly a nightmare, in truth it slumbered for most of … Continue Reading

The Year In Review

By Lano Williams and Christine Steiner The past year was packed with litigation that ranged from broad constitutional questions to the ever present scourge of forgeries. Art Law Gallery presents highlights of some of the most important cases:  … Continue Reading

Cherchez les Catalogues Raisonnés

By Tyler Baker and Christine Steiner The success of the art market depends largely on confidence in the authenticity of artists’ works. Traditionally, a work in an artist’s “catalogue raisonné” has been key to confirming the authenticity, and thus value. To that point, a recent lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of … Continue Reading

Authentication Board to Death by Lawsuits

By Lano Williams and Christine Steiner The recent news that the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. will dissolve in early 2012 brings the role of authentication boards in the art world to the fore once again. The Board, which has been charged with authenticating the works of Andy Warhol since 1996, has been the … Continue Reading

Artist Resale Royalties–New Cases under California Law

By Tyler Baker and Christine Steiner On October 17, a proposed class of artists filed three federal lawsuits against auction houses Christie’s, Inc., and Sotheby’s, Inc., and internet auctioneer eBay, Inc., alleging that the defendants sold their artwork at California auctions and on behalf of California sellers, but failed to withhold royalties due. The complaints … Continue Reading

Forbidden Art Nyet! Russian Curator and Exhibitor Convicted for Controversial Art Exhibit

In March 2007, the exhibition "Forbidden Art-2006" opened at the Sakharov Museum in Moscow, featuring twenty-three provocative works previously banned throughout Russia. Andrei Erofeev, known as Russia’s most provocative curator, organized the exhibition and Yuri Samodurov, former director of the Sakharov Museum, provided the exhibit’s venue. Both have been found guilty under Russia’s Criminal Code … Continue Reading

Destruction or Restoration? Sculptor Claims a Violation of Moral Right

In July, sculptor David Ascalon filed suit with the U.S. district court in Pennsylvania, against the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg ("Federation") for violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 ("VARA"). With true artistic flair, Ascalon alleges the Federation turned his Holocaust memorial sculpture into a "mutilation and bastardization of the artwork and … Continue Reading

Grandma Robbed by Nazis – Grandson Sues Spain to Recover Stolen Paintings

In August, 2009, the Ninth Circuit decided en banc by 9-2 that a California resident Claude Cassirer can sue Spain to recover his grandmother’s oil painting "Rue Saint-Honore, apres-midi, effet de pluie," painted by the French impressionist Camille Pissarro and taken by the Nazi government. (Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, 2010 U.S. App. 2010 WL 3169570 … Continue Reading

Does Finders-Keepers Bring Piracy to New Depths?

For over 200 years, $500 million in gold and silver cargo sat undisturbed on a seabed off the coast of Portugal. Then, in May of 2007, Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration announced the discovery of a vast treasure at an undisclosed location it called "the Black Swan." Within weeks, Spanish officials identified the Swan as the Spanish colonial-era … Continue Reading

Fairey’s Use

Last year’s Presidential election was historic on many accounts. Both campaigns saw an unprecedented turnout, as Americans from all walks of life came out in record numbers in support to their candidate of choice. Controversial artist Shepard Fairey, whose work includes "street art, commercial art and design, as well as fine art seen in galleries and museums … Continue Reading

Where There is a Will, Is There a Way?

Indiana Jones, quite possibly the most famous treasure-plundering, antiquity-hoarding fictional archeologist of our time, has a way of making the process of art reclamation or, depending on one’s perspective, appropriation, look grand.  Indy, usually covered with grime, soot, debris and a perfect layer of five-o-clock shadow, dodges boulders, bullets and brutes armed with bows and … Continue Reading
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