Art Law Report

Art Advisors are Not Always Fiduciaries—Lawsuit over Cady Noland "Log Cabin" Dismissed

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 14, 2016 at 2:25 PM

The ongoing saga between Yves Bouvier and Dmitri Rybolovlev over Bouvier’s sale to the Russian billionaire of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi (and a recent preemptive suit by Sotheby’s against the original sellers of the work to Bouvier) has cast unusual scrutiny over the often-private relationships between art dealers, art advisors, and their clients.  Chief among the issues between Bouvier and Rybolovlev is whether Bouvier’s resale to Rybolovlev at an allegedly markedly higher price than Bouvier purchased it for constitutes self-dealing by a trusted agent, or the time-tested adage of buy low, sell high.  This is a question of great significant for obvious reasons: in private sales the collector is often relying on the expertise of the art professional.  In any fiduciary relationship, however, it is axiomatic that the fiduciary agent (like an attorney or a trustee) cannot enrich himself at the expense of the beneficiary.  Whether Bouvier is indeed a fiduciary is a fiercely debated question for another day.

A recent dismissal in New York of a case about Cady Noland’s Log Cabin provides some welcome guidance on the contours of these relationships in the eyes of the law.  The finding that the defendant owed no exceptional duty to the plaintiff is a significant pushback against the expansive view of agency that Rybolovlev, among others, has advocated.  The decision clarifies that interaction with an expert does not elevate that expert to a position of undivided loyalty.  Rather, the terms of the relationship must be on of special trust and confidence.  The duties of actual fiduciaries are not changed by this decision, but it will help professionals and collectors understand who is, and who is not, filling that role. 

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Topics: Cady Noland, Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, VARA, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, Yves Bouvier, Log Cabin, Dimitry Ryobolovlev, unjust enrichment, 17 U.S.C. 106A, Brett Shaheen, Janssen Gallery, Michael Janssen, Scott Mueller, Marisa Newman Projects, Wilhelm Schurmann

Victor Henderson of LA Fine Arts Squad Files VARA Claim Over “Brooks Avenue Painting”

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 2, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Victor Henderson, creator of the Los Angeles mural “Brooks Avenue Painting,” has filed a lawsuit alleging a violation of his right of integrity under the Visual Artists Rights Act (“VARA”).

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Topics: Brooks Avenue Painting, Section 106A(a)(3), Moral Rights, The Doors, negligence, Victor Henderson, Graffiti Art, Visual Artists Rights Act, California Art Preservation Act, recognized stature, VARA, conversion, Copyright, 5Pointz, Terry Schoonhoven, LA Fine Arts Squad, Ralph Ziman

New York Man Sues Germany For Liebermann Found With Gurlitt, but Allegations Face Real FSIA and Pleading Challenges

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 6, 2014 at 1:53 AM

When I spoke in Heidelberg in January at the Institute for Jewish Studies conference “Appropriated Art—the Gurlitt Case,” one of the points I stressed in discussing U.S. restitution litigation was that the longer the Gurlitt case went unresolved (and do not be distracted by the “Voice of Russia” article that is being circulated as “Holocaust victims’ heirs to reclaim Nazi-looted artwork if Gurlitt bill passsed”­—it is not remotely a simple or likely as that), the more certain it would be that litigation would follow in the U.S. Gurlitt himself and his legal team have done their part recently to make any meaningful agreement impossible, and in the absence of unilateral action by Germany (which would probably be illegal), it has now come to pass. The first civil claim related to paintings seized from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment has now been filed by David Toren in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Free State of Bavaria and the Federal Republic of Germany.

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Topics: Focus, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Voice of Russia, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Hungary, de Csepel, Max Liebermann, Germany, Silesia, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Appropriated Art the Gurlitt Case, Hans Sachs, Baron Herzog, bailment, Madame Soler, Entartete Kunst, FSIA, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, conversion, Bavaria, David Toren, Zwei Ritter am Meer, Free State of Bavaria, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), Looted Art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Ersessene Kunst¬—der Fall Gurlitt, Picasso, Riders on the Beach, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, David Friedmann, Institute for Jewish Studies, Münchner Kunstfund, Heidelberg

Gurlitt Taskforce Announces Plan to Post 590 More Works. Choice of Law, Procedure, and Venue for Claims Up in the Air

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 15, 2013 at 6:17 AM

Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, leader of the newly formed federal “Schwabing Art Find” taskforce, announced plans to release information about 590 additional works found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, after the posting earlier this week of 25 works at www.lostart.de. Meanwhile, the heirs of Max Ernst have publicly disclosed (through their attorney Jürgen Wilhelm in Cologne) their claim to certain of the works in the Gurlitt find. The federal authorities appear to be gaining the upper hand for disclosure against the tax investigators in Bavaria who initially seized the collection, which was not a foregone conclusion.

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Topics: Cologne, veschollene Kunst, the Lion Tamer, Lempertz, Cornelius Gurlitt, Schwabinger Kunstfund. Kunstfund München, Max Liebermann, Köln, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Hildebrand Gurlit, Entartete Kunst, Nazis, Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, Hermann Goring, Michael Hulton, FSIA, Gurlitt, Restitution, conversion, Looted Art, World War II, degenerate art, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Löwenbändiger, Raubkunst, Alfred Flechteim, Jürgen Wilhelm, Max Ernst

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