Center for Art Law

At the crossroads of visual arts and the law.

In Brief – 2017

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Fall 2017

Artforum #Too: Knight Landesman, the co-publisher of an influential art magazine, resigned after a former employee accused him of smearing her reputation following years of harassment and unwanted sexual advances.

Bold Win/Dispute Resolution: The New York gallery owner, Mary Boone, has reached a seven-figure settlement with Alec Baldwin to resolve the actor’s lawsuit alleging she misled him about the uniqueness of a Ross Bleckner painting he purchased, called “Sea and Mirror.” The complaint filed in 2016, alleged that the work in question was not the original, unique version of the artwork. Baldwin v. Boone, et al., 654807/2016 (NY Sup Ct) is dismissed with prejudice.

WA Confidential: Judge Robert Lasnik disqualified a Seattle attorney and her law firm from representing Michael Moi, plaintiff who alleges that the glass artist Dale Chihuly failed to credit him for artistic contributions. Attorney Anne Bremner was removed from the case this month at the request of Chihuly’s lawyers, who argued that Bremner previously represented others who sued Chihuly and as a result obtained confidential information about Chihuly’s operations.

Pope May Stay Cross Must Go: At least four French courts (including that of public opinion) have considered the fate of the 2006-Tsereteli statute of Pope Jone Paul II. The final verdict from the France’s Supreme Court, citing the 1905 secularization law, the cross must be removed but the statute can stay in situ, in Brittany. The outcome is hardly protective of the Georgian-Russian artist’s right of integrity but there is something to b e said about the Solomonic decision. Perhaps when the next debate about confederate equestrian statues erupts in the United States, someone could propose removing the horseman and keeping the horse.

Virginia is for Public Safety: Governor of Virginia announced an emergency regulation restricting not only the size of the crowd permitted to assemble near the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond (up to 500 people) but also requiring permits to hold events for groups in excess of 10 people and banning guns at all permitted events.

Hobby Lobby: A new private museum opened in Washington DC this month, with a modest name of the Museum of the Bible, with a price tag slightly higher than the sales price of Salvador Mundi. The Museum began making news earlier in the year, when the US Department of Justice effectuated a forfeiture of hundreds of smuggled artifacts and collected a $3 million non-penalty from Hobby Lobby, a craft store, whose President, Steve Green, is the chairman of the Museum of the Bible.

Summer 2017

Ivory trade update: from elephant to mammoth On August 3, 2017, nearly two tones of ivory was pulverized in New York City’s Central Park as a message to the elephant poachers that their efforts are futile and destructive to the environment. Reactions were mixed, some attendees of the ceremony were hopeful that the destruction would hurt and discourage poachers, dealers, and collectors, others were upset that beautiful and potentially important pieces were destroyed with inconsequential effect on poaching.

Reportedly ivory carving businesses in China is in search for alternative medium to wan itself of elephant ivory are turning to working with mammoth tusks. New environmental issues are surely looming as the primary source of the mammoth bones is the Russian tundra. Apparently “collecting the tusks like berries or mushrooms on the tundra is allowed in Russia…” but the growing need for materials will encourage illicit excavations.

April 2017

Photographer and Warhol Foundation in Dispute Over Prince Screen Print The Warhol Foundation has sued photographer Lynn Goldsmith, who claims that a 1984 screen print of Prince by Andy Warhol infringes on the copyright of her 1981 photograph of the singer. Goldsmith has stated she intends to bring counterclaims over the copyright. It seems that even posthumously, Prince just can’t avoid controversy. (TM)

Multiple Flavors of Street Art Copyright This month in street art law news: a court settlement has foiled the attempts of a developer building over a colorful 9-story mural, citing the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. Meanwhile, McDonald’s is under fire for including unauthorized images of Bushwick street artists leading to complications including the obvious copyright infringement, to potential claims of false endorsement, damages to work and reputation, and improper profits garnered from unauthorized use. One would think McDonald’s should be a faster learner, following the fallout from their use of Dash Snow’s work in their restaurant decor.  (TM)

Another Settlement in String of Knoedler Gallery Lawsuits: Casino mogul and former Ultimate Fighting Championship co-owner Frank Fertittia III has settled out of a suit against curator Oliver Wick, over the sale of a forged Rothko painting via Knoedler. (TM)

The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art In Orange County, California, Assemblyman Matthew Harper has drafted a bill to allow art gallery owners throughout California to serve beer and wine without a license from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Council. The proposal comes after a local fiasco last year in which undercover Laguna Beach officers cited five galleries for serving alcohol without a license during a First Thursdays Art Walk. Caveat bibitor! (TM)

From Russia with Morality a Bill Seeking to Police Exhibition Venues A proposed Russian bill seeks to enact fines against theaters and museums who fail to “protect visitor’s feelings,” an attempt to protect high moral values such as “patriotism, religious beliefs, national and aesthetic values.” Some commentators have contextualized the bill as an extension of the existing law protecting the feelings of religious believers. Serving alcohol w/out a license or consuming the same in museum seems not be included in the proposal. (TM)

Out of Australia The Indian High Commission has advised the National Gallery of Australia that four of its antique statues are subject to be investigated by the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nuda police. Two of the pieces were purchased from currently imprisoned dealer Subhash Kapoor, accused of smuggling more than $100 million of stolen artwork from India. Elsewhere, two Australian men have been acquitted of selling fraudulent Brett Whiteley paintings, which they had been previously found guilty of faking. (TM)

The Met Considering Admission Fee for non-New Yorkers Amidst its public multi-million dollar budget deficit and the resignation of its Executive Director, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art is reportedly toying with the idea of charging mandatory admission for non-New York City residents. Mayor Bill DeBlasio has endorsed the idea, calling it “fair,” although many questions remain about how this might be accomplished and what the fee would be. (TM)

This Month Primer on Restitution Law:

  • German authorities are loosing the fighting in United States federal court for the possession of the Guelph Treasure, a collection of medieval German church art. Heirs of the German Jewish art dealers who sold the collection to the Dresdner Bank in 1935 are suing, claiming the sale was forced and invalid.
  • An agreement between the University of Oklahoma and the Parisian heir of the painting “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep” has been reached. The painting will be displayed in Paris for five years, before rotating between Paris and the university in three year intervals.
  • The owner of a Nazi-looted 17th-century Dutch portrait pulled the work from auction just hours before, following anonymous threats and public outcry. The situation has lead to increased pressure for Austria to revise its restitution law, allowing the government to intervene in cases of looted art going on auction. (TM)

Vivian Maier’s Estate now in Dispute with Another Collector Over Copyright and Trademark Infringement This week, Vivian Maier’s estate filed a complaint against Jeffrey Goldstein, a Chicago art collector who sold his collection of approximately 17,500 Maier negatives to a gallery in Toronto in 2014. The estate only owns Maier’s copyrights in the photographs. Goldstein is accused of infringing on the estate’s copyrights and misleading the public about the legitimacy of prints by having registered the name “Vivian Maier Prints,” and operating the website without permission from the estate. The estate claims that these activities harmed the estate’s rights in the works and caused a loss of profits. The website content has now been taken down (HD)

Marisol Estate Heads to the Albright-Knox Another great artist passes who has an unusual estate plan for her work. Although she had no gallery representation at her death, she left her entire estate to the museum called the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Traditionally in the art world, when an artist passed they would have a gallery handle their estate, but Marsol passed without any gallery representation at the time of her death last year. Artist’s entire estate consists of 100 sculptures and more than 150 works on paper, thousands of photographs and slides, and a small group of works by other artists Marisol had collected. The bequest also includes the artist’s archive, library, studies, tools, and New York loft apartment. It is an unusual move for one museum to receive an artist entire estate, but because the Albright-Knox was the first to purchase her work in the 1960’s Marisol felt her work would best be kept at a museum that first recognized her work. (HD)

March 2017

How “Banal” Jeff Koons Guilty of Plagiarism (in France) French courts have ruled that Jeff Koons plagiarized the photography of French artist Jean-François Bauret in a 1988 sculpture called “Naked.” This is not the first time Koons, whose work often makes use of pop culture and mass-produced imagery, has lost a copyright infringement suit.

Christie’s to Close London Salesroom and Scale Down in Amsterdam Christie’s international auction house has announced it will close its secondary South Kensington salesroom and begin to scale back its business in Amsterdam. The closings come after a difficult year for art auction sales in 2016, which some observers have suggested indicates a cooling art market.

January 2017

South Korean Minister of Culture Resigns Amid Blacklist Scandal Korean official Cho Yoon Sun resigned last week, shortly after being arrested for allegedly compiling a blacklist of nearly 10,000 artists critical of former President Park Geun-Hye. Also arrested was Kim Ki-Choon, a former chief staffer for Park’s father, president Park Chung-hee. The scandal erupts amidst a series of arrests of high-ranking officials and President Park Geun-Hye’s impeachment last December.

Public Arts in the Trump Era Just ahead of the inauguration of President Trump, reports circulated about his administration’s intent to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities in his budget. The reports have lead to a flurry of responses, with many critics noting that both offices make up a minuscule percentage of the annual budget and that they fund a diverse set of vital programs. Performance artist Karen Finley observed that Trump’s financial and cultural successes are owed to America’s history of arts and culture. This not the first time the National Endowment for the Arts has come under scrutiny, with detractors alleging that it funds obscene or inappropriate art or that it is an unwieldily and ineffective bureaucracy.

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