Saturday, February 28, 2015

"[B]y one measure — money — Mr. Lik may well be the most successful fine-art photographer who ever lived"

Was traveling this week and still playing catch-up, but lots of art law to mention.  First up is this really interesting NYT story on photographer Peter Lik, who operates completely outside the establishment art world ... and apparently has sold almost $440 million worth of work.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is how thin the secondary market for his work is -- the fact that, as the Times article puts it, "anyone buying his work assuming that it will appreciate is all but certainly in for an unhappy surprise."  Georgina Adam calls it "a cautionary tale."  The Art Market Monitor says "[w]hat’s going on here isn’t hard to figure out. Lik is the latest iteration in business that provides affluent buyers with a vacation experience they can boast about for years after at home. Park West Gallery ran 'auctions' on cruise ships for years where buyers were thrilled to play at bidding on prints that were available other places for cheaper prices. [Thomas] Kinkade had a chain of mall stores at the height of his popularity."  Sarah Cascone rounds up other reactions.

On the legal side, lawprof David Zaring wonders:  "Is this okay?  It's not like you should be able to sue any artist who sells you art that doesn't gain in value ....  And it's not like Lik's in house gallerists have a special duty of care towards potential purchasers.  And common law fraud is a last resort kind of claim, it seems to me.  But boy, the way the those photos are sold...the article is full of dodgy representations by seemingly well-coached, and honest sounding salespeople.  This might be the kind of profile that establishes that yes, there is such a thing as bad publicity."