Art Law Report

September 21, 2022 Event—Issues on Art, Artifacts and Archeology

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 14, 2022 at 3:07 PM

 

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Topics: Boston Bar Association, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Victoria Reed, Sadler Curator of Provenance, Ashley Mason, Malgorzata A. Mrózek, Fitch Law Partners LLP

New Law Requires Museums in New York to Display Information About Nazi Art Looting, May be More Complicated than it Looks

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 17, 2022 at 2:40 PM

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has signed into law a new requirement requiring museums to indicate publicly any object in their collection that was displaced by the Nazis as part of what Congress has rightly called the largest organized theft of art in human history. The significance of this new rule is clear: New York is the center of the art world, and its museums hold a unique place of prominence. As readers of this blog or of my book A Tragic Fate-Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art know, my view has long been that American museums vary widely in their candor and proactive approach to the issue of Nazi-looted art in their collections. Many have shown admirable initiative in probing their collections, while others have shown a regrettable passivity in waiting to receive and then deflect claims. Whether this bill will move the needle on that balance is the question. Transparency and disclosure have been the defining goals of the modern restitution era. This new law serves many of those ideals, but some unintended consequences may follow.

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Topics: Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Alliance of Museums, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, Supreme Court, Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, AAM, Museum of Modern Art, Nuremberg race laws, Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Stolen Ar, Association of Art Museum Directors, Washington Department of Labor and Industries, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, AAMD, Military Government Law 59, State Department, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, HEAR Act, A Tragic Fate, Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art, Governor Kathy Hochul, Reich Citizenship Law, Animal House, Kevin Bacon

Sullivan files Supreme Court Amicus Brief to Clarify Fair Use and Transformativeness in Warhol’s Use of Lynn Goldsmith’s Prince Photos

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 15, 2022 at 10:55 AM

Sullivan has filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the upcoming Supreme Court case Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith. The brief was filed as counsel of record for copyright scholar Philippa S. Loengard, the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at Columbia Law School. The case concerns the applicability of Section 107 of the Copyright Act, which permits as a fair use that would otherwise be copyright infringement—to a print made by Andy Warhol from a photograph of the musician Prince by photographer Lynn Goldsmith. In particular, the question presented to the Court addresses the implications of the Court’s holding nearly thirty years ago in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, 579 (1994) that allowed for the possibility that a secondary use could be considered a fair use if it were sufficiently “transformative.” What exactly that means in the context of visual art has been a fraught—and at times incoherentsubject in recent years. Our brief explains that the Court should return the analysis of fair use to the four factors established by Congress. In the case of the first of the four factors, the Court should focus on the statutory language of the purpose and character of the works. By contrast, the inquiry into the meaning or message of the works advocated by the Warhol Foundation and the amici supporting it is a fool’s errand that provides no clarity and would render the copyright in photographs effectively unenforceable. This case is not a battle between Lynn Goldsmith and Andy Warhol; those artists proved entirely capable in 1984 of arranging the balance for themselves. It is a battle between a maximalist view by the Warhol Foundation that dismisses the value of photography as a creative medium at all.

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Topics: Copyright Act, Roy Orbison, Toward a Fair Use Standard, Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music Inc., Kernochan Center for Law Media and the Arts, Philippa S. Loengard Esq., Columbia Law School, Prince, transformative, Andy Warhol, Fair Use, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Condé Nast, People Magazine, The Time, 2 Live Crew, Death Valley, Velázquez, Rubens, King Philip IV of Spain, Las Meninas, Section 107, Billboard, Pierre N. Leval, “Oh, Pretty Woman”, Mickey Mouse

“ENABLERS Act” Pursues Art Market but Threatens Longstanding Protections Against Government Intrusion

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 20, 2022 at 1:39 PM

Consistent with efforts in recent years to apply banking laws to the art market, the prospects of passage of a bill in Congress that would apply those rules to a broad category of advisors and attorneys have recently increased. The “ENABLERS Act,” a gimmick of nomenclature apparent from the moment it was proposed, was briefly attached to the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which in keeping with longstanding tradition easily passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 14, 2022. This tactic, which was also used to extend the reach of the Bank Secrecy Act to antiquities dealers in 2021, greatly enhances the odds that what seemed initially like an unserious publicity stunt might become law. Readers of the Art Law Report will not be surprised at a critical view here of the effort to place a square peg—the art market—into a round hole—bank oversight. This bill is considerably worse, however. Compounding the confusion is that despite widespread coverage about its attachment to the NDAA, the ENABLERS Act as originally proposed is not in the version of the NDAA that passed the House of Representatives last week (it was added then revised, notwithstanding at least one report to the contrary). What was approved for the moment omits the worst parts of the ENABLERS Act. But the perception that it is a done deal ironically may have the effect of lowering vigilance about its prospects. Even if this bill never becomes law, it has come much closer than it should have.

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Topics: Congress, Supreme Court, House of Representatives, AML, Money laundering, FinCEN, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Illicit Art and Antiquities Trafficking Protection, suspicious activity reports, Bank Secrecy Act, 31 U.S.C. § 5312(a), National Defense Authorization Act, Treasury Department, ENABLERS Act, NDAA, art market regulation, Tom Malinowski, dealers in antiquities, JOHN HENRY WIGMORE, Berd v. Lovelace, Federal Rules of Evidence, Panama Papers, International Consortium Investigative Journalists, Offshore Leaks database, English Chancery Court, Blackburn v. Crawfords Lessee, Pandora Papers

Harvard Can be Sued Over Louis Agassiz Slave Daguerreotypes from 1850

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 14, 2022 at 9:54 AM

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (the state’s highest court) recently issued a surprising decision that permits claims against Harvard arising out of a series of daguerreotypes taken of the plaintiff’s ancestors in the 19th century by famed professor Louis Agassiz to proceed. While the SJC affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s property claims that sought outright ownership, the court reinstated claims for emotional distress. The decision held that the manner in which an educational institution responds to a grievance about something in its possession may itself be actionable in the context of the institution’s relationship to the historical facts. In stretching the bounds of the traditional causes of action for negligent or reckless infliction of emotional distress to reach a sympathetic set of facts, however, the SJC has effectively abolished limits on museum liability for collections created under problematic circumstances where the response to such claims is attacked creatively enough. The issue is not whether the result is fair to Harvard, or whether the plaintiff’s family deserves recognition and justice for what was done—they do. The problem with cases that are hard or impossible to limit is that they may lead to socially positive outcomes in one instance, but can be weaponized in the next. In an era when all manner of actors are politicizing what universities should or shouldn’t teach, this opinion creates innumerable opportunities for mischief. As a result, it raises First Amendment and Due Process concerns that Harvard might plausibly petition the Supreme Court to address.

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Topics: due process, Supreme Judicial Court, SJC, Harvard, First Amendment, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, NAGPRA, Tamara Lanier, negligent infliction of emotional dismiss, Louis Agassiz, Daguerreotype, Renty Taylor, Delia Taylor, MFA, reckless infliction of emotional distress, Philip Guston, Drew Gilpin Faust

Responsible Art Market Initiative­--Intermediaries and Sustainability in the Art Market January 28, 2022 in Geneva

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 5, 2022 at 2:39 PM

After a two-year hiatus, the Responsible Art Market Initiative is planning a return to its in-person annual conference at the end of this month in Geneva. For anyone who has attended RAM events or used its catalogue of guidance and best practices, this is exciting news and hopefully a chance to gather in a format that has been informative and enjoyable for many years now. As before, the gathering will be at the Palexpo in Geneva and the artgeneve art fair. 

This year’s topic is Intermediaries and Sustainability in the Art Market. I am pleased to have shepherded a working group that has drafted practical guidelines for intermediaries in the art market. We will present the guidelines, and then several intermediaries will work through a practical case study. In addition, panelists will discuss the role of sustainability in the marketplace.

Stay tuned for registration information. Obviously conditions are changing rapidly, but I hope to see you in Geneva!

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Topics: Geneva, artgenève, Events, Responsible Art Market, Palexpo, Intermediaries

Sullivan Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief with former State Department Legal Adviser in Nazi-looted Art Case

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 22, 2021 at 5:43 PM

Today I am pleased to announce that I have filed a brief in the Supreme Court of the United States as counsel of record for amicus curiae Mark B. Feldman, former U.S. Department of State Acting Legal Adviser. We filed the brief in the case of Cassirer et al. v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation (“TBC”). Cassirer is the long-running dispute over title to Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, effet de pluie (Rue St. Honoré, Afternoon, Rain Effect) by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. The painting once belonged to Lilly Cassirer, a Jewish woman in Berlin in 1939, from whom Nazi agents “bought” the painting. The case before the Supreme Court is not about whether the painting was stolen—it is undisputed that it was. Rather, the Supreme Court will review the Ninth Circuit’s decision that Spanish law, not California law, should govern the ownership rights.

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Topics: Guelph Treasure, Lilly Cassirer, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Supreme Court, SPK, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Hermann Goering, FSIA, expropriation exception”, sovereign immunity, UNESCO, Rue St. Honoré, Camille Pissarro, Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza, Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Welfenschatz, Jakob Scheidwimmer, Philipp v. F.R.G., Mark B. Feldman

Art Dealer and Holocaust Claimant Asks Supreme Court to Hear Dispute Over Poland’s Vendetta Against Him

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 5, 2021 at 3:59 PM

We were privileged to file today a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of our client, art dealer Alexander Khochinsky. The petition asks the Court for reinstatement of a lawsuit against Poland for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (i.e., sovereign immunity) for Poland’s effort to have Khochinsky extradited from New York as leverage to force him to relinquish a painting that he inherited from his father. The case invokes three provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605 (the FSIA): the implicit waiver exception, the counterclaim exception, and the non-commercial tort exception. The basis on which we seek the Court’s review is simple: if the holding below is the law, then no one is safe in the United States from any number of rogue regimes that abuse the extradition system for discriminatory and persecutory reasons. To allow this decision to stand is a threat to any American. What if, for example, Turkey pursued a Christian American in similar fashion motivated by religious animus about owning a particular kind of art from the Ottoman Empire? What if the Taliban, now the de facto government of Afghanistan, declared a worldwide intention to find Jews in possession of Pashto cultural property? What if China declared American intellectual property to be revolutionary patrimony?

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Topics: China, Alexander Khochinsky, Holocaust claims, extradition, FSIA, "Girl with Dove", Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Poland, Sullivan and Worcester LLP, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Operation Barbarossa, Taliban, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pashto

FinCEN Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Regulate Dealers in Antiquities

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 24, 2021 at 11:39 AM

The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today published in the Federal Register notice of proposed regulations related to the implementation of amendments to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) regarding the trade in antiquities pursuant to last year’s Anti-Money Laundering Act. After relative silence over the nine months since the AMLA was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, FinCEN somewhat surprisingly still has not drafted any proposed regulations, but rather seeks additional comment on a series of substantive questions. This effort to gather meaningful data is a positive step, but raises concerns about interested parties’ ability to respond by the 30 day deadline, and whether FinCEN will have time to incorporate those comments into regulations that must be promulgated (after further public notice and comment) by the end of 2021.

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Topics: Antiquities, AML, Money laundering, FinCEN, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Bank Secrecy Act, National Defense Authorization Act, Treasury Department, BSA, Anti-Money Laundering Act, Byzantium

Virtual Fever, the New Pandemic? Trends in International Property, Art, Space, and Technology Law in Berlin October 11-12

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 21, 2021 at 11:25 AM

There’s just no other way to say it: the last 18 months have been extraordinarily hard. Professionally, what I have missed the most is the chance to connect with, and learn from colleagues, particularly those far away. It is therefore with great excitement and pride that I can announce that the International Bar Association’s Intellectual Property Section will hold a live, in-person conference next month on trends in IP law. As my second year as co-chair of the Art, Cultural Institutions and Heritage Law Committee winds down, I am so pleased that we will be contributing a panel to this terrific event about, what else, Non-Fungible Tokens. As anyone who has watched my LinkedIn feed this past summer will know, Berlin holds a very special place in my life and so I look forward to making my first trip overseas in a very long time to a city that is like a second home.

The program, to which the several committees organized, is below and registration is open.

Bis zum nächsten Mal in Berlin!

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Topics: Berlin, Art Cultural Institutions and Heritage Committee o, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Events, IBA, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Anne-Sophie Nardon, Laurent De Muyter, Blanca Escribano, Frank P Maier-Rigaud, ABC Economics, Anne Vallery, Katharina Garbers-von Boehm, Büsing, Müffelmann & Theye, Martin Wilson, Phillips Auctioneers, Johann König, Elisa Henry, Ruben A Hofmann, Paulina Silva, Grace Nacimiento, Laurent Schummer, Luc Govaert, Joanne Wheeler, Jason Jarvis Jardine, Nazli Cansin Karga Giritli, Novartis, Niko Härting, Sajai Singh, Martin Viciano Gofferje, Borghese Associes, KÖNIG GALERIE, Erik Valgaeren, Özge Atilgan, Corey Salsberg, Felix Engelhardt, Christine Graham, Volodymyr Yakubovskyy

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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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