Thursday, December 24, 2015

"Five Legal Cases Changing the Art Market as We Know It"

Really good end-of-year piece by Laura Gilbert at Artsy.  Not all five are "cases," but I especially liked her take on the proposed authentication legislation in New York:

If the bill passes in its present form, authenticators still face the risk of paying their own legal fees, even if they win, which is what sidelined them to begin with. Whether the possibility that a losing plaintiff will have to pay their fees will provide enough reassurance for authenticators to once again re-enter the market remains to be seen."

Also good (but not quite as legal-focused):  Georgina Adam in The Art Newspaper:  2015's biggest art market developments and what they mean.

Monday, December 21, 2015

"Even a secretive museum is better than no museum."

Kriston Capps has a long post on the issue of collector-founded museums, discussed recently here. To his credit, he seems to recognize it's a complicated issue.  For example:  what would happen if we crack down too hard on these museums?

"What if the Kreegers hadn't seen any incentive in turning their home and art fortune into a museum for the public? What if it didn't make sense for Duncan Phillips, or Henry Frick, or Alice Walton, or William Corcoran? One alternative is every art lover's nightmare: collectors who buy artworks and never show them at all."

The whole thing is worth reading.

This is why nobody authenticates any more

The New York Post:  "A California man claims in a Manhattan lawsuit that he lost out on an $800,000 payday after a Russian art foundation wrongfully declared one of the works he owned a fake."

The proposed New York State legislation isn't going to meaningfully change things, either.

In limine

The Art Newspaper's Laura Gilbert:  Lawyers battle to tip balance of evidence before Knoedler trial. Trial starts Jan. 25.

"If we could ban slippery slope arguments, the quality of public debate would be vastly greater."

Eric Posner on the deaccessioning debate.

Not really -- he's talking about something completely different.  But I really liked that quote.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Held in the public trust (television spectrum rights edition)

This story from a few days ago put me in mind of the deaccessioning debate.  Howard University has its own public television station, and it's considering selling off the rights to the spectrum on which it broadcasts ... for "hundreds of millions of dollars."  Can it do so?  Is the spectrum "held in the public trust" the way a painting hanging on the walls of the station is presumed to be?

What interests me most about the story is the way it presents both sides of the issue -- "proponents of a sale argue that it could stave off more painful cuts to the university’s core operations and could bolster financial aid," while those against a sale argue that "Howard has a responsibility not only to its students but also to Washington to keep the station on the air" (sound familiar?) -- and then leaves it there.  Neither side has a trump card to win the debate.  But imagine if one side had a conversation stopper, an "ethical" principle handed down by, say, the AA(PB)D (the Association of American Public Broadcasting Directors) that prohibited consideration of the sale.  Wouldn't that be weird? And wouldn't it be weirder still if the rest of us credited that "ethical" principle as anything more than an expression of the desired outcome of one side of the debate?  Yeah, that would be crazy.

Here We Go Again

Another infringement suit against Jeff Koons.

Story here.

The experts -- including my co-teacher Amy Adler -- weigh in here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Second Circuit Affirms Haring Decision

Earlier this month, the Second Circuit affirmed a District Court decision dismissing authentication-related claims against the Haring Foundation.  You can read the decision here.   I think the most significant aspect the decision -- and potentially a hugely important tool for defendants in these sorts of cases -- is that it confirmed the lower court's take on the "special damages" requirement (discussed in point 6 of my post on the earlier decision):  that is, because the plaintiff could not name both (1) the specific individuals who decided not to buy the work and (2) the price they would have paid, they could not make out a claim for product disparagement.  As I said in the earlier post:

"That would, as I say, be a difference-maker ... but is it right?  I am minding my own business with what I think is a $50 million painting by Artist X hanging on my wall.  Out of nowhere, the Artist X Foundation (or some other well-respected authority on Artist X's work) announces to the world that my painting is not an authentic work by Artist X (and is therefore now worthless) ... and there's nothing I can do about it because I can't point to a specific sale that I lost?"

Apparently, yes.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Lawsuit of the Day

New York Post:  "A Manhattan man is suing the Met, claiming it’s committing sacrilege by depicting Jesus as a blond."

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Second Circuit Affirms Biro Dismissal

Story here.  Opinion here.  Background here.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

"Exactly why the opera destroyed the sculpture is unknown."

"Two years after artist John Raimondi learned the Palm Beach Opera had sold one of his signature bronze sculptures for scrap, he has settled a lawsuit he filed against the non-profit ...."  Amount undisclosed. Background here.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Another Knoedler Settlement (UPDATED)

This one involving John Howard and the fake de Kooning he bought for $4 million.  Laura Gilbert has the story in The Art Newspaper:  "The forgery scandal ... spawned ten lawsuits. Including Howard’s case, five of them have now settled.  The trial of a sixth, brought by Sotheby’s chair Domenico De Sole and his wife, Eleanore, is scheduled to begin on 25 January."

UPDATE:  More here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

"More than a million people have visited The Barnes Foundation since the art museum moved to Philadelphia from a suburb in May 2012."

"That's almost three times the number of visitors who saw its extensive collection in its former home in the five years before the relocation."

The AP:  Barnes art museum looks to build on successful move.

But ... theft!

Related:  Julia Halperin in The Art Newspaper:  How the Barnes Foundation is reinventing itself.  Among other things, "[o]ver the next five years, the Barnes plans to launch its first formal exhibition programme, commission new work by contemporary artists, digitise its archive and open up its collection to scholars."

But ... conspiracy!

Also related:  Barnes Foundation announces free weekday admission for college and university students.

It's an outrage, I tell you.

"It is hard to overstate the gravity of the Castelvecchio thefts."

Thomas Marks on the recent theft of 17 paintings from one of Verona's most important museums.

"The letters were sent after an article in The New York Times earlier this year that examined the proliferation of tax-exempt private museums created by wealthy art collectors, sometimes in their own backyards." (UPDATED)

The NYT's Patricia Cohen reports that the Senate Finance Committee is looking into the issue of collector-founded museums, "questioning whether the tax-exempt status they enjoy provides sufficient public benefit to justify what amounts to a government subsidy."  Her earlier article is here.

As I said when the previous article was published:

"My general take on this is that, while there are certainly valid concerns here, one way to look at these arrangements is as part of the deal we make in order to get broader access to these (amazing) collections eventually.  ...[T]hink of Glenstone as a future Barnes.  Some day we will cherish the collection the way people cherish the Barnes.  If part of the price we have to pay to get there is to allow the founders to keep the collection close to their hearts (and living rooms) in the early years, that doesn’t seem like too bad a deal. Life is short, art is long."

Or, as Cohen puts it in the last paragraph of the new story:

"Several well-established art institutions, like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the Frick Collection in New York, the Phillips Collection in Washington and the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia, grew out of a wealthy art collector’s private purchases."

UPDATE:  Paddy Johnson says "[h]onestly, this is a good thing. The Brant Foundation, for example, is open to just about nobody most times of the year, putting into question the public good the museum serves."