Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"The rescue fund for Detroit pensioners and the Detroit Institute of Arts has gotten a $40-million boost from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation"

More money-putting where mouth is.

I'm liking this new model of dealing with deaccessioning.  The next time an institution is in desperate need of cash -- the next National Academy or Fisk or Brandeis -- instead of screeching about how the proposed sale offends their sense of "ethics," people can go ahead and contribute the needed funds.  Someone should start a deaccessioning kickstarter.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jasper Johns Takes The Stand (UPDATED)

In the trial of a former foundry owner "who stands accused of creating at least 13 fake sculptures and selling or trying to sell them."  Background here.

UPDATE:  A guilty plea in the case.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Bottom line: the conversation re: the DIA has turned the corner, but the museum is not home free." (UPDATED)

Judith Dobrzynski summarizes the day's developments in Detroit.

UPDATE:  Some thoughts from Nicholas O'Donnell:  "[I]t seems unlikely at this point that Orr will even propose an actual sale of the DIA collection, let alone try to go through with it."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

More on Richard Serra and the Fight for Public Art

As a follow up to my post last week, the following is a letter to the editor from Serra that the Times declined to publish: 

To The Editor:
Martha Schwendener’s recent article “Shifting His Tectonic Plates” (January 10) referred to the Federal government’s destruction of my sculpture “Tilted Arc” and went on to claim, incorrectly, that “in the aftermath of that fiasco” I stopped fighting for the rights of artists creating public sculpture.  In fact, I waged a five-year battle against the misrepresentations, false promises and deceptions of the General Services Administration, and most importantly took my case to court with the aim of defending the right of artists to make work free from censorship, defacement or destruction by government agencies.  Although I lost the case, with the court allowing the government to establish a precedent for property rights over free expression, I have never stopped speaking out for the moral rights of all artists.

Richard Serra

Monday, January 20, 2014


The NYT's Graham Bowley had a good piece last week on the practice known as "enhanced hammer" -- where, in addition to waiving the seller's commission, the auction houses are also giving consignors part of the buyer's premium as well.  Felix Salmon adds his usual interesting commentary, pointing out that, in a case where the seller gets to keep all of the buyer's premium (as apparently happened with Peter Brant's recent sale of "Balloon Dog"), it opens up the possibility that the seller could be the buyer of his own work:  "If Brant was the high bidder, the total cost to him of selling the work would have been tiny, compared to the benefit he got in terms of personal reputation and the increased value of other works in his collection."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Even a good-faith purchaser for value cannot acquire title to stolen goods" (UPDATED)

I'm a little late getting to this one, but the Baltimore Museum of Art has prevailed on summary judgment in a custody battle over a Renoir stolen from the museum in 1951.  Patricia Cohen has the story here.

UPDATE:  Fox Rothschild comments:  "This case highlights that provenance is key! ... All buyers of fine are advised to gather as much documentary evidence from the seller at the time of purchase and to keep receipts and any other documentation to show when, where and how the item was acquired in case a dispute over title arises."

"ACA could have accepted the higher price that accompanies certainty of authenticity, but chose instead to accept the risk that the painting was a forgery."

The Second Circuit has affirmed Judge Cederbaum's summary judgment decision in a case involving a fake Milton Avery painting, discussed earlier here.  I'll post a link when I find one.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Way to Save the DIA?

Apparently a group of local and national foundations have formed a human circle around the Detroit Institute to block the sale of any art.  Actually, scratch that.  They haven't done that at all.  What they've done is pledged $330 million towards a deal that would save the art.

I think the technical legal term for this under the bankruptcy statute is Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.  Much more effective than simply pounding the table and repeating that museums never ever sell art, it just isn't done.

John Gallagher and Mark Stryker have the story in the Detroit Free Press. They point out that "the pledges do not by themselves mean that the ... DIA art [is] now beyond the reach of creditors. Rather, the commitments are intended and expected to play a part in ... 'an overall balanced settlement of disputes in the bankruptcy.'  In other words, there is no deal until all the various claims in the broader bankruptcy case have been settled."  More from Randy Kennedy (and others) in the NYT.

One way to look at the proposed deal is as a sale of the collection by the DIA to the foundations ... who then gift it back to the museum.  Or maybe as the museum paying to remove the works from the bankruptcy process.  I guess the creditors might then argue that the "purchase price" was too much of a bargain and demand more.

On Richard Serra and the Fight for Public Art (UPDATED)

The NYT's Martha Schwendener had a review of (our client) Richard Serra’s current show at Gagosian Gallery in New York.  She’s of course entitled to her aesthetic opinions, but the assertion that Serra hasn’t done enough to “fight for the rights of artists creating public sculpture” is just bizarre.  Greg Allen has a great response here.  For those interested in the Tilted Arc controversy -- and Serra’s related fight for the rights of artists creating public sculpture -- this is a good place to start.

UPDATE:  More from S
ergio Muñoz Sarmiento.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Who can keep track at this point?

In The Art Newspaper, Laura Gilbert says the number of Knoedler lawsuits now totals eight.

"In fact, all these allegations are so patently inadequate that the court can only conclude that they were brought solely for the purposes of harassment or embarrassment, without any consideration of their legal sufficiency."

Catching up on some pre-holiday news, I see that Justice Kornreich was really unimpressed with the Calder estate's lawsuit against Klaus Perls's estate:  "plaintiffs are attempting to litigate issues that necessarily stretch back decades without any personal knowledge or contemporaneous records, where nearly all of the people who had personal knowledge of the facts are dead.  Rarely has the court encountered a better justification for the statute of limitations."

She had little patience for all the stuff that got commentators excited about the case, calling the allegations "an incoherent stew of irrelevance and innuendo":  "Briefly, allegations of tax fraud by defendants are the sole concern of the United States government and have nothing whatsoever to do with this case.  Any curiosity in the Perls' method of keeping their own business records is immaterial, as there is no allegation that the estate ever relied on those records for any purpose.  That Klaus Perls may have deposited some of the proceeds from the sale of Calder works into a Swiss bank account does not amount to fraud against plaintiffs, nor does it give plaintiffs the right to see the records of that account.  That Klaus never disclosed to the estate that Calder also maintained a Swiss bank account is also immaterial, as it was not his obligation to do so."

The decision is here.   The New York Times is here.  Judith Dobrzynski says, so far, she's with the judge.  Lee Rosenbaum was skeptical from the start.