In between enjoying another excellent Art Law Day today at NYU, I am pleased to report that Sullivan & Worcester LLP’s Art and Museum Group scored a significant win this week. Our client Artmentum GmbH was sued in New York for $204 million in connection with a potential art collection sale. The plaintiff Art Assure Ltd., LLC and its principal Asher Edelman accused my clients of fraud and breach of contract, which they denied categorically. The matter was entitled ArtAssure Ltd., LLC v. Artmentum GmbH et al., No. 1:14-cv-3756 (LGS).
Topics: No. 1:14-cv-3756 (LGS), Art Assure Ltd. LLC, Collections, Asher Edelman, Artmentum GmbH, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Art and Museum Law Group, Litigation, ArtAssure Ltd. LLC v. Artmentum GmbH et al.
Professor Adam J. Levitin of Georgetown has an excellent piece in Salon this week that adds to what I like to call the sober group of discussions about the Detroit Institute of Art collection in the context of the City of Detroit Bankruptcy. From a learned perspective, Professor Levitin echoes some of the themes we’ve addressed here so far, namely:
In connection with the Detroit bankruptcy, auction house Christie's announced on Monday that it has been hired to "assist and advise on how to realize value for the city while leaving the art in the city's ownership." According to the Christie's press release, the auction house was hired by the City of Detroit itself, which has floated the idea before (and which the museum itself has opposed publicly).
An important qualifier to the discussion about deaccessioning and the Detroit Institute of Arts is that although DIA is a subdivision of the bankruptcy debtor (Detroit), that debtor is not any old commercial entity. Rather, Detroit is a municipality, and municipal and state debtors are governed by slightly different rules than private parties.
Topics: Legislation, Donn Zaretsky, Deaccession, Chapter 9, 11 U.S.C. § 904, Public Trust, Attorney General of Michigan, Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, Bankruptcy, Collections, Bankruptcy Code, Association of Art Museum Directors, Bill Schuette, Detroit Emergency City Manager, Kevyn Orr, Museums, Detroit Bankruptcy, AAMD
The recent filing by the City of Detroit for bankruptcy—the largest such municipal filing in history—has brought with it an unexpected art law twist. Namely: to what extent can, or should the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts be used to satisfy the city’s creditors. As one might expect, the differences between what the city can do, what it should do, and what others can do to influence that decision have become hard to distinguish as the volume is raised. A review of some of the issues involved and the governing principles is in order. As rumors of the city’s bankruptcy circulated, speculation began about what would happen to the collection of DIA. And thus the dreaded “deaccession” debate began. This debate is essentially as follows: is art a fungible commodity that can and/or should be used in whatever way advances the mission of the institution (including selling it and using the proceeds to finance the museum’s operations), or do museums hold art in a public trust that must prioritize the collection and display of art? The latter view certainly holds sway among many in the museum community as an aspirational mattter, but its enforceability is often far less than they think.
Topics: National Academy Museum, Brandeis, Deaccession, American Alliance of Museums, Rose Art Museum, AAM, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Collections, Association of Art Museum Directors, Motor City, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Cleveland Museum of Art, Detroit Bankruptcy, AAMD, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
A federal court in California has dismissed a claim by a buyer against Sotheby’s that alleged that the auction house sold him a work whose title was clouded because Hermann Göring had once owned it. What seemed liked a interesting new theory of liability was dismissed because the buyer had agreed in advance to litigate any disputes from the sale in the United Kingdom. It is somewhat surprising that the buyer even tried.
Topics: provenance, Louis-Michel van Loo, Auctions, Nazi, California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Christie's, Hermann Goring, Collections, Restitution, section 1750 of the California Civil Code, Allegorical Portrait of a Lady as Diana Wounded by, Sotheby's
After a report from the United States that settlement talks in the civil forfeiture case against the Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer at the St. Louis Art Museum were sufficiently promise to suspend the briefing schedule in the Court of Appeals, the government has advised the court that those talks have failed. The government’s appellate brief is now due June 3, 2013.
The Boston Globe addressed this week Sullivan & Worcester LLP client Mark Rappaport’s dispute with Boston University professor Ray Carney concerning the custody of Rappaport’s original film archive. My partner Kevin Colmey has represented Rappaport in this regard for over a year, and I appeared on Rappaport’s behalf at a hearing last year as well.
Topics: Local Color, The Silver Screen/Color Me Lavender, Chain Letters, Mark Rappaport, Boston University, The Boston Globe, Casual Relations, Impostors, Collections, Rock Hudson’s Home Movies, The Scenic Route, From The Journals of Jean Seberg
The New York Times has stepped into the fray in reviewing the New York Court of Appeals's decision to review the Rabizadeh/Jenack appeal concerning the application of New York's Statute of Frauds to compel disclosure of a consignment seller at auction. The article zeroes in on the potential impacts to the ways in which auction houses do business. I am quoted in the article and the Art Law Report is referenced on the topic of mandatory disclosure.
It is a busy fall for consignment law in New York. News has been making the rounds this month about a decision by the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, New York’s intermediate appeals court. The Appellate Division ruled that an auctioneer must disclose the name of any owner who has consigned the work for sale, or a sale against a successful bidder cannot be enforced. The auction world is in an uproar, but the result actually derives from a version of a very old law called the Statute of Frauds about what has to be in writing for a contract to be enforceable, for reasons that have nothing to do with art or auctions.