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

Finance, Art and Law—How Does Fine Art Shape Up as an Asset?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 30, 2015 at 8:48 AM

The Art Law Foundation in Geneva (Fondation pour le droit de l’art), together with the Banking Law Centre at the University of Geneva, hosted a sterling event on Monday in Geneva. This was the second part in a series spearheaded by the Foundation, the first day was held in London in November. While I was not able to attend the London event, it was very well received, and together with this week’s event it must be said that the organization is up to great things. Their events page (here) is something anyone interested should book mark. In particular, these events have showcased sophisticated insights into market-based aspects of art and law, which whether we like it or not is what is driving the discussion (and will continue to). A real hats off to the organizers, in particular Attorneys Sandrine Giroud of Lalive, and Pierre Gabus of Gabus Avocats, a director and president, respectively, of the Foundation.

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Topics: China, Pierre Gabus, Art Finance, Sotheby’s Financial Services, Fremdverwaltung, leverage, Xavier Oberson, Alexandre Quiquerez, Philip Hoffman, Frédéric Dawance, Art Business and Research Unit at Sotheby’s Instit, authenticity, Art Law Foundation, Swiss Collective Investment Schemes Act, The Art Newspaper, Geneva, artgenève, Fine Arts Expert Institute, Manuela de Kerchove, Sandrine Giroud, Lalive, Supervised Qualified Investors, Natural Le Coultre, Yan Walther, feeder funds, Jan Prasens, Abel Avocats, Farrer & Co LLP, Lombard Odier, Events, Tutela Capital, James Carleton, Sotheby's, U.C.C., Yves Bouvier, Schroders, Fabian Bocart, Fine Art Fund Group, Art Finance And Law Conference Series

Reminder: “Art Finance and Law” in Geneva Monday January 26, 2015

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 8, 2015 at 7:14 AM

A reminder of this month’s marquee event in Geneva, the second in a two part series “Art Finance and Law” organized by the Art Law Foundation at the University of Geneva (the first, in London last November, is recapped here). My ticket is booked, so I hope to see you there. If you’ll be in attendance, drop me a line so we can connect either at the conference or in Genveva. Bon voyage!

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Topics: Pierre Gabus, William Pearlstein, Prof. Xavier Oberson, Université Lyon, Art Finance, Sotheby’s Financial Services, Alexandre Quiquerez, Philip Hoffman, Myret Zaki, Emigrant Bank Fine Art Finance, Frédéric Dawance, Tim Hunter, Art Business and Research Unit at Sotheby’s Instit, Art Law Foundation, London, Melanie Gerlis, David Arendt, The Art Newspaper, Geneva, The Fine Art Fund, Fine Arts Expert Institute, Philipp Fischer, Oblyon Art Business Intelligence, Manuela de Kerchove, Banque Lombard Odier & Cie SA, Luc Thévenoz, Sandrine Giroud, Lalive, Natural Le Coultre, Yan Walther, Jan Prasens, Farrer & Co LLP, Paul Aitken, Marco Mercanti, Falcon Fine Art, Events, Sebastian Fahey, Stefanie Berloffa-Spadafora, Rebecca Hawkins, Bilan, Tutela Capital, Private Art Investor, Abels Avocats, James Carleton, Sotheby's, borro, Li Jun Xian, Université de Genève, Yves Bouvier, Schroders, The Luxembourg Freeport, Fabian Bocart, Fine Art Fund Group, Art Finance And Law Conference Series

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About the Blog


The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities. It is authored by Nicholas M. O'Donnell, partner in our Art & Museum Law Practice.

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

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