Art Law Report

Art Advisors and Duty of Loyalty in Focus Again Over Sale of Basquiat

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 17, 2017 at 10:18 AM

We reviewed in December an important decision that addressed the duties of loyalty that art advisors may, or may not, owe to their clients in dealing in the art market.  That question—of to what extent advisors and consultants must subordinate their interests entirely to the clien—is of obvious importance in a marketplace where buyer and seller often do not interact with each other.  Whereas December’s news about the sale of Cady Noland’s Log Cabin was a reminder that advisors are not necessarily fiduciaries, this month’s decision about the sale of a Basquiat painting underscores that where a fiduciary relationship exists, the penalties for straying from those obligations can be severe.

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Topics: Cady Noland, Log Cabin, Michael Schulhof, Lisa Jacobs Fine Art, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hannelore Schulhof, Lisa Jacobs, Future Sciences Versus the Man, fiduciary duty, art advisor

Battle Over Controversial Student Art in U.S. Capitol Lands in Court—First Amendment in Focus Again

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 6, 2017 at 9:38 AM

For several weeks earlier this year, an odd battle was waged in the halls of the U.S. Capitol over a controversial work of art by a high school student placed there after an art competition in St. Louis.  At issue is whether the Architect of the Capitol had the right to direct the permanent removal of the painting, or whether doing so violated the student’s (or his Congressman's) First Amendment Rights.  That student, and the Congressman, have now gone to U.S. District Court in Washington, DC to get an answer.  As in the past, strong feelings on all sides about police officers in particular have sharpened the debate about how, when, and whether the government can be selective in its displays of expressive visual art.  With that said, the ostensibly retroactive application of Capitol rules to disqualify a painting that had previously passed those very same guidelines seems unlikely to pass First Amendment muster. 

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Topics: U.S. House of Representatives, Richard Serra, First Amendment, Tilted Arc, Ferguson Missouri, St. Louis, William Lacy Clay, Eugene Volokh, Dave Reichert, Duncan Hunter, Capitol, Michael Brown, Tip O'Neill

Sea Change in Nazi-looted Art Claims? The HEAR Act is Put Into Action

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 1, 2017 at 2:43 PM

Two pending cases have invoked the new law

A recent article in the New York Times highlights the change that the recent passage of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act of 2016 has had on disputes about the timeliness of claims for allegedly Nazi-looted art.  The odd part, however, is that the case cited by the Times is not one in which the HEAR Act has been invoked or argued, though it could be some day.  As far as we are aware, there has been briefing on the effect of the HEAR Act in two cases, my clients’ claim against the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK) and Germany in U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, and Laurel Zuckerman’s claim as representative of the Leffmann estate in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.  Only two months after its passage, the law is already changing the terms of debate.

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Topics: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Germany, Seated Woman wiht Bent Left Leg (Torso), Bakalar v. Vavra, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Fritz Grünbaum, Egon Schiele, David Bakalar, HEAR Act, Richard Nagy, Laurel Zuckerman, Alice Leffmann

New Publication: Éthique et patrimoine culturel—Regard croisés

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 2, 2017 at 10:56 AM

L'Harmattan has published a new volume entitled Éthique et patrimoine culturel—Regard croisés (Ethics and Cultural Patrimony: Viewpoints), which is a collection of papers presented at a conference in October, 2015 at L'Ecole du Louvre in Paris.  I spoke at the conference and submitted the full treatment of my remarks to the book entitled "Public Trust or Private Business? Deaccessioning Law and Ethics in the United States."  My co-presenters were eloquent and their expanded research and essays are well worth reading.  Copies can be ordered here.

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Topics: cultural property, Denis Michel Boëll, Ecole du Louvre, National Consultative Ethics Committee, Deaccession, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Marie Cornu, Musée de la Marine, Council of Voluntary Sales, Tehran, Baptiste Brown, Marie Berducou, Stéphane Duroy, University of Toulouse Capitole, Michel Van Praët, University of Shahid Beheshti, Philippe Durey, Arnaud Beaufort, University of Poitiers, University Western Bretagne, Nathalie Heinich, Milan, Julien Chapuis, Pinacoteca di Brera, French National Commission for UNESCO, Philippe-Henri Dutheil, University Rennes, Vincent Negri, Céline Castets- Fox, Astrid Müller Katzenburg, Sophie Vigneron, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Events, University of Kent, Museum for Byzantine Sculpture Collections and Art, Noëlle Timbart, Dominique Jarrassé, Claire Barbillon, Gilles Ragot, University of Montreal, State Museums in Berlin, International Society For Law Research of Cultural, Edouard Planche, Emmanuelle Polack, Université Paris Sud, EY Société d’avocats, Janet Blake, Jacques Bittoun, Catherine Chadelat, Jérôme Fromageau, Vincent Gautrais, Geraldine Goffaux Callebaut, Daniel Janicot

Recap and Analysis: Responsible Art Market Initiative Launched in Geneva

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 1, 2017 at 9:35 AM

I was pleased to attend last week in Geneva “Building an Art Market for the Future—Guidelines for Countering Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Threats” hosted by the Fondation pour le Droit d’Art (Art Law Foundation) and the Art Law Centre of the University of Geneva.  The conference was the official launch of the Responsible Art Market initiative, and offered valuable, market-focused discussion about the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing in the art market.  Refreshingly, the day’s panel discussions focused on best practices and goals, rather than the oft-heard lamentations about problems with the art market.  The implicit point that came through was a powerful one: as both private sellers and law enforcement speakers explained, art dealers are not engaged in large-scale shadowy financial dealings.  But art dealers and buyers are at serious risk of being used by criminals engaged in money laundering, which can have serious consequences.  Because willful blindness is no defense, the conference and the initiative provided valuable practical advice.

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Topics: Pierre Gabus, Anne Laure Bandle, Art Dealers Association of Switzerland, Art Law Foundation, Geneva, Sandrine Giroud, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Art Law Centre, University of Geneva, AML, Terrorist financing, Sylvia Furrer Hoffmann, Ricardo Sansoletti, Ursula Cassani, Simon Studer, Mathilde Heaton, Fondation pour le Droit d’Art, Jean-Bernard Schmid, Rakhi Talwar, Ralph Wyss, Responsible Art Market initiative, Money laundering, Stiftung Kunsthalle, Bern, Deloitte

Conference in Cambridge—“From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective”

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 31, 2017 at 10:55 AM

I am speaking at a conference on March 23-24, 2017 at the University of Cambridge (UK) entitled “From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective.”  My presentation will address the various national panels created in response to the Washington Conference by European countries to address claims for Nazi-looted art in state collections.  The roster of speakers is impressive (present company excluded), and it promises to be a fascinating two days.  The program is available here, and the conference website is here

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Topics: Wiesbaden, London, Holocaust Art Restitution Project, Paris, Art Recovery Group, Constantine Cannon LLP, Emily Löffler, Pierre Valentin, Events, Johannes Nathan, Karlsruhe, Marc Masurovsky, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Emmanuelle Polack, Leopold Museum, Frankfurt, Jewish Claims Conference, Victoria Louise Steinwachs, Debbie De Girolamo, Tabitha I. Oost, Bianca Gaudenzi, Jewish Museum Prague, Robert Holzbauer, Tessa Rosebrock, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Laurel Zuckerman, Shlomit Steinberg, Richard Aronowitz-Mercer, Maike Brueggen, Nathalie Neumann, Simone Gigliotti, Royal Holloway University of London, Anne O. Popham, Ulrike Schmiegelt-Rietig, Isabel von Klitzing, Landesmuseum Mainz, Michaela Sidenberg, Mary Kate Cleary, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Fluchtgut, Diana Kostyrko, Elizabeth Campbell, University of Denver, Evelien Campfens, Leiden University, Angelina Giovani, Jennifer Gramer, Agata Wolska, Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam, Friederike Schwelle, Art Loss Register, Provenance Research & Art Consulting

Fake News, Fake Art?  Richard Prince Disavows Work Depicting Ivanka Trump

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 13, 2017 at 10:32 AM

There has been much discussion about the impact of the Presidential election on the art market, amidst much generalized anxiety about "fake news."  What about "fake art?"  Never one to be behind the curve, artist Richard Prince has stepped into the spotlight (to the extent he left).  Declaring that one of his controversial “New Portraits” works of Instagram posts of others that was sold to Ivanka Trump is “fake” and that he “denounce[s]” it, Prince raises interesting questions about what the legal ramifications of such a repudiation might be.  In this instance he has apparently refunded Ms. Trump’s money, but following on last year’s surprising Peter Doig trial (surprising that it got to trial, not that Mr. Doig won), a hypothetical artist making such a declaration might have some vulnerability under both common law, if not under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, 17 U.S.C. § 106A (VARA)

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Topics: Richard Prince, Patrick Cariou, Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, Art Market Monitor, VARA, Twitter, 17 U.S.C. 106A, Ivanka Trump

Geneva Event: Building an Art Market for the Future—Guidelines for Countering Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Threats

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 9, 2017 at 11:45 AM
The Fondation pour le Droit d’Art (Art Law Foundation) is a Geneva-based group that sponsors exploration of important topics at the intersection of art and law.  Over the last few years, often in collaboration with the Art Law Centre of the University of Geneva, they have explored with particular skill a number of complex questions about the commercial components of the international art market.  As we have touted before, their events are routinely of the highest quality.  I am pleased to note the following upcoming event on January 26, 2017 at artgenève, which I am very much looking forward to attending (the program is in English).  Registration is available here.  Hope to see you there! 
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Topics: Pierre Gabus, Anne Laure Bandle, Art Law Foundation, Geneva, artgenève, Sandrine Giroud, Lalive, Events, University of Geneva, Ursula Cassani, Riccardo Sansonetti, Simon Studer, Mathilde Heaton, Responsible Art Market, Fondation pour le Droit d’Art, Marc-André Renold, Jean-Bernard Schmid, Rakhi Talwar, Ralph Wyss, RAM

Jurisdictional Law Hailed as Impetus to End Russian Art Loan Embargo that is Actually Unaffected by that Law

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 6, 2017 at 12:39 PM

With reports that Russia is considering abandoning the nearly five year old embargo on loans of cultural artifacts into the United States, the cited connection between that willingness and the recent passage of the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (FCEJICA) bears closer scrutiny that it has received to date.  If the unnecessary embargo were to come to an end it would be welcome news, but Russia’s claim that the new law is the reason is hard to square with the history of the issue.  It cannot be stated emphatically enough that the new law makes Russian art loans no more or less safe from seizure than they were before, because the law governing seizure of cultural objects (the Immunity from Seizure Act, or IFSA) has not changed.  Russia’s penchant for framing the question as something for which it needed protection is thus frustrating because it is simply incorrect.  The Russian loan embargo has been political theater from the time in began in 2012 in retaliation after Russian defendants lost a key litigation in Washington, DC, and the new law was passed in response to events that had nothing to do with Russia. 

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Topics: Alfred Flechtheim, Russia, 22 U.S.C. § 2259, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3), FSIA, IFSA, Immunity from Seizure Act, Chabad, Welfenschatz, Malevich v. City of Amsterdam, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional

Gurlitt Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern is Upheld

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 15, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Cousin Had Challenged His Capacity to Make a Will Shortly Before 2014 Death

After a two-year legal battle, the Oberlandesgericht in Munich has upheld the dismissal of Uta Werner’s challenge to the will made by Cornelius Gurlitt in 2014 that designated the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir, including the bequest of his controversial painting collection.  Less than six months after it was revealed in November 2013 that the Bavarian authorities had seized 1,280 objects from his Schwabing home in Munich, Gurlitt wrote a will that designated that his entire collection would go to the Swiss museum.  Barring some extraordinary appeal, the bequest will now be final and the collection will go to Switzerland.  While lifting considerable uncertainty about the fate of the collection as a whole, this development does not address the lack of clarity about the process by which the objects that are suspected of having been looted by the Nazis will be examined or returned.

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Topics: Bayern, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art in Munich, SZ, Uta Werner, Nazi-looted art, Oberlandesgericht, Munich, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Catrin Lorch, Free State of Bavaria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Jörg Häntzschel, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB)

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