The recent announcement of the launch of the Court of Arbitration for Art (CAA) is exciting and intriguing news. There is nothing peculiar to the art market or the art world about the existence of disputes—any businessperson in a wide variety of industries can testify to that. But what is promising about this initiative is the opportunity it presents to streamline an important segment of art world disputes, and in so doing to create a larger body of legal guidance that will in itself be useful in and outside of formal controversies. It does not supplant civil litigation in courts, nor does it make any pretense of doing so. It could, however, become an important complement. Critical will be enough buy-in from lawyers in particular to become willing to recommend its inclusion in contracts, for example. I would certainly include myself in that group, depending on the specific circumstances.
Topics: Stropheus, Judith Prowda, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London, AAA, Geneva, Pryor Cashman LLP, Tom Brady, Megan Noh, New York, HEAR Act, CAA, Authentication in Art, Arbitration, JAMS, The Hague, NAI, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016, Quinn Emanuel Urquart & Sullivan LLP, Court of Arbitration for Art, Netherlands Arbitration Institute, William Charron, Cahill Cossu & Robinson LLP, Luke Nikas
I will be speaking to the Copyright Society of the USA on Thursday May 10, 2018 at 5:30 pm at Northeastern University Law School at 250 Dockser Hall – 65 Forsythe Street in Boston. The presentation will discuss the legal and ethical implications of recent sales or proposed sales by museums of works of art in their collections, including the Barnes Foundation, the Corcoran, and the Berkshire Museum. The event is free of charge and open to the public. RSVP is preferred but not required, see attached flyer for details. the event is co-sponsored by the New England Chapter of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. and Northeastern’s Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity.
Since the passage in 2016 of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act, many commenters (here included) have grappled with what the implications of the law will be on the scope and frequency of future claims. Even as litigants are faced with policy arguments about whether individual claims belong in U.S. courts—arguments that the HEAR Act should have put to rest—it is occasionally worthwhile to consider how prior cases would have been affected. Such analysis can draw into relief why the law was such a significant step forward. This week, news that a painting by Vincent Van Gogh once owned by Elizabeth Taylor will go to auction again provides one such example. A beautiful painting in the collection of the biggest movie star in the world makes for a great sales pitch, but missing in the coverage is any mention of Margarethe Mauthner, a German Jew who owned the painting before fleeing the Nazi regime. The exact circumstances under which she lost possession of the painting are unclear, but those circumstances might have had the chance to be determined had the HEAR Act been passed earlier. The importance of that opportunity is worth considering as the law is assessed going forward.
Topics: Margarethe Mauthner, Nazi-looted art, Van Gogh, Christie's, Holocaust Victims Redress Act, Sotheby's, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, HEAR Act, A Tragic Fate, Vue de l'asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy, Alfred Wolf, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Cassirer
Last week Apollo magazine published my comments about the recent 5Pointz decision. The article can be found here, and the text is reprinted below:
I am honored to be one of the presenters at an upcoming symposium at Brandeis University entitled "Looted Art for Sale." This interdisciplinary conference will provide an international perspective on the last twenty years of art recovery. Speakers include former Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, a primary leader in the creation of U. S. restitution policies, Hector Feliciano, Professor Meike Hoffmann, Victoria Reed, Inge Reist, and Lucian Simmons. The filmmaker, John Friedman, will screen excerpts from his forthcoming documentary on Tuesday evening, March 20th (6:30pm), in Edie & Lew Wasserman Cinematheque, “Restitution: Art and Memory.”
Topics: Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Victoria Reed, Brandeis University, Lucian Simmons, Hector Feliciano, Rosenberg Institute of Global Finance, Brandeis International Business School, Inge Reist, Stuart Eizenstat, Looted Art for Sale, Brandeis Center for German and European Studies
(Boston, MA, February 26, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP clients and Berkshire Museum members James Hatt, Kristin Hatt, and Elizabeth Weinberg filed today a brief with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts asking the state’s highest court not to permit the sale of 40 works of art by the Berkshire Museum. The Berkshire Museum filed a petition on February 9, 2018 asking the SJC to permit deviation from the historical restrictions that would prevent such sale. Today the museum member filed a brief as amicus curiae, or “friend of the court.”
Partner Nicholas M. O’Donnell, attorney for the members, said, “My clients are optimistic that the SJC will see through the Berkshire Museum’s petition to deviate from its historical restrictions as unnecessary, and harmful. Such a petition must show that the current state of affairs is impossible or impracticable, and that the requested change is ‘as near as possible’ to the original purpose of the institution. This petition fails to meet either criterion.”
(Boston, MA, February 13, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP clients and Berkshire Museum members James Hatt, Kristin Hatt, and Elizabeth Weinberg sharply denounced today the agreement that was announced Friday evening between the Berkshire Museum and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to permit the sale of every one of 40 works of art that the members—and AG Healey—sued last year to prevent. Only two weeks after filing a 50-page brief in the Massachusetts Appeals Court that detailed numerous violations of the Trustees’ fiduciary duties and specific restrictions on the 40 works of art, the Attorney General’s office has filed its assent to the Museum’s request to modify its governing charter to permit the immediate sale of Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop to an unnamed buyer, and to allow the sale of the 39 remaining works thereafter without any further oversight of the governance of the Museum.
I am very pleased to be in Chicago on February 26, 2018 at the Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law to discuss my book, A Tragic Fate—Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art. DePaul's cultural heritage law program is at the pinnacle of art, museum, and cultural property study, and it is a great honor to be invited.
Sullivan & Worcester LLP has taken action on behalf of its client, artist Adriana Varella, to protect her sculpture Digital DNA from removal and destruction by the City of Palo Alto, California. Digital DNA has stood in the heart of Palo Alto for nearly 15 years, and is widely beloved by the community. In that time it has been recognized for its compelling message about the effect of technology on society.
(Boston, MA, January 16, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed its papers in the appeal by its clients, the members of the Berkshire Museum who sued to enjoin the museum’s sale of 40 works of art and sculpture. The appeal was brought as a result of the Berkshire County Superior Court’s November 7, 2017 denial of their request for an injunction, and dismissal of the case. That order denied not only the members’ request, but also a motion by another group that includes Norman Rockwell’s sons and the motion by Attorney General Maura Healey to pause the sale originally scheduled for November 13, 2017 at Sotheby’s in New York—a sale that would have included Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop and other masterpieces.
Topics: Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, Zenas Crane, Hudson River School, Frederic Edwin Church, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Maura Healey, Massachusetts Appeals Court