A major art heist this past week raises considerable issues regarding art security and title. At the Paris Museum of Modern Art, a brazen thief made off with five paintings, valued together in excess of $120 million. The masked intruder’s plunder included significant works by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Modigliani and Léger. Officials in Paris decried the theft as a devastating loss to the art world that demonstrated serious lapses in the museum’s security system. For instance, the thief had only to break a window and smash a grill’s padlock to gain access to the museum’s priceless collection. What is more, even though there were security officers on duty at the museum at the time of the theft, they witnessed nothing. The museum’s security camera did yield an image of the thief, but it is not yet known whether any of the culprit’s features are discernable enough to provide investigators with any useful leads. Alarmingly, this is the second time in less than a year that a significant work of art has been stolen in France. The last theft, which involved a Degas pastel valued at nearly $1 million, was stolen from the Cantini Museum in Marseille.

Continue Reading Say it Isn’t PicasSo – Paris Art Theft Raises Security and Title Concerns

In 2001, the European Parliament passed Directive 2001/84/EG, which requires all EU Member States to incorporate a so called “Droit de Suite” into their respective national copyright law codes by December 31, 2009. A key goal of the Directive is to eliminate competitive barriers that existed in the contemporary and modern art market between Member States whose respective copyright laws had codified Droit de Suite decades ago (e.g.. France and Germany), and Member States whose respective copyright laws were silent on the principle (e.g. Great Britain, Austria, and the Netherlands).

Continue Reading The European Droit de Suite – An EU Effort to Strengthen the US Contemporary Arts Market?

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 galleon "Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes," declared her treasure to be the rightful property of the Spanish people, and demanded that Odyssey reveal its secret location. Now, two centuries after British cannon fire left the Mercedes "breaking like an egg, dumping her yolk into the deep," the Spanish warship has found herself at the center of another battle—exposing the fragile relationship between maritime law and cultural heritage protections.

Continue Reading Does Finders-Keepers Bring Piracy to New Depths?