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 The Year In Review

On the verge of becoming an international institution, the recent Hong Kong International Art Fair, known as “ART HK,” represents an exciting development in the state of the art world in China. This growth has critical, yet profoundly inspiring, implications upon the international art community.  Since its humble beginnings in 2008, ART HK has shown rapid growth with over 260 galleries from over 38 countries participating in the recent fair.  Momentum of ART HK’s success and prominence was recently propelled by an announcement that MCH Swiss Exhibition, owners of Art Basel, the world’s biggest contemporary art fair, have just signed an agreement with Asian Art Fairs, the owners of ART HK, to purchase a majority stake in ART HK, which went into effect on July 1, 2011.  This tactical move, combined with rising auction revenue, favorable tax considerations, a newfound interest in art as an asset class, and interest based on national identity, cements China’s role in the global art market.
Continue Reading Doing Business at ART HK: Better, Bigger, Faster, Stronger

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 for using the exhibit to incite religious and ethnic hatred.
 Continue Reading Forbidden Art Nyet! Russian Curator and Exhibitor Convicted for Controversial Art Exhibit

Political tension concerning the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao intensified following the museum’s announcement in late 2009 that it planned to build a new museum in Urdaibai area. The Basque government, particularly Secretary of Culture Blanca Urgell, was strongly opposed to the extension plan allegedly because of a financial controversy involving the museum. Early in 2010, she commissioned Madrid law firm Ramón y Cajal to investigate the museum’s financial management. In April, the firm reported on possible mismanagement by Juan Ignacio Vidarte, director of the Bilbao Guggenheim, involving the museum’s financial transactions to acquire artworks.
 Continue Reading Bilbao Guggenheim Expansion Meets With Political Opposition

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 (9th Cir. 2010).)  The court rejected Spain’s defense, holding that the defendants cannot claim a sovereign immunity from suit in the U.S. under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA").
 Continue Reading Grandma Robbed by Nazis – Grandson Sues Spain to Recover Stolen Paintings

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?