Since online auctioneer Paddle 8 filed for bankruptcy protection in March, creditors of the company have begun filing their notices of claim in the bankruptcy case. One thing on which the creditors all seem to agree is that the current assets of Paddle 8 will be insufficient to cover its debts by a considerable margin. Paddle 8’s lenders and commercial landlord are by far the largest creditors, and standing out from the crowd will be difficult. The key for many consignors, therefore, will be whether they can convince the Bankruptcy Court that the money they seek is somehow distinct from the unsecured claims of the bulk of creditors. Based on filings to date, there is already considerable disagreement about the limited scope of New York’s consignment statute (N.Y. Arts & Cult. Affairs Law § 12.01) (NYACAL), the interpretation of which will be important to this and presumably many other bankruptcies to come. NYACAL protects consignment sale proceeds under certain circumstances when the artist of the work in question is the consignor—but not otherwise. For the charitable consignors, they may end up holding the bag.
Early last week the online auctioneer Paddle 8 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Southern District of New York, on the heels of a recent lawsuit demanding payment for works of art sold at a charitable auction last November. While the Paddle 8 bankruptcy seems to have been driven by business conditions long before the complete upheaval of the art and business world due to COVID19, it is all but certain now that the cascading closures of businesses large and small for the foreseeable future will bring a wave of bankruptcies in the months and year to come. As such, taking a closer look at the Paddle 8 situation can be instructive for art market participants of all sorts, particularly with respect to the consignment and sale of art. Put simply, most businesses are going to need to think very soon about their roles as creditors who are owed some good or service, in the hopes of avoiding becoming debtors who need the help of bankruptcy laws to reorganize or stave off liquidation.
Topics: Bankruptcy, Bankruptcy Code, Bankruptcy Court, consignor, U.C.C.-1 statement, New York Arts & Cultural Affairs Law, Salander O'Reilly, ArtNet, Force majeure, coronavirus, COVID-19, Chapter 11, Paddle 8, Auctionata AG, online auction, Tom Otterness, Valentine Uhovski, Rameshkumar Ganeshan, 11 U.S.C. § 541(b)(1), 11 U.S.C. § 362(a), Penumbra, G.L. c. 104A, § 2, John Ahearn, Kiki Smith, Jonas Mekas, Jim Jarmusch, Walter Robinson, Michael McClellan, security interest, N.Y. Arts & Cult. Affairs Law § 12.01, automatic stay, Acts of God, Paper Chase
Sullivan & Worcester LLP's Art and Museum Law Group has published an important new client advisory about Massachusetts's fine arts consignment statute, G.L. c. 104A. With the recent decision in Plumb v. Casey et al. by the Supreme Judicial Court, it is more important than ever to understand what the law requires and provides. Certainly if a transaction has any connection to Massachusetts (whether through buyer, seller, agent, estate executor, etc.), or even if it is just in a state with a consignment statute whose courts may look to this opinion for guidance, we hope our readers will find the advisory helpful.
Topics: Legislation, consignment, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Supreme Judicial Court, SJC, Bankruptcy Court, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, consignor, G.L. c. 104A § 2, Art and Museum Law Group, G.L. c. 104A § 1, U.C.C.-1 statement, U.C.C. Secretary of State, Plumb v. Casey, Chapter 7, Uniform Commercial Code
The Supreme Judicial Court, the high court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has answered a certified question from the Bankruptcy Court about the interpretation of Massachusetts’s fine art consignment law, G.L. c. 104A. The case, Eve Plumb et al. v. Debra Casey, SJC-11519, originated with an art dealer’s bankruptcy and the claim by the trustee in that bankruptcy that the artwork in the dealer’s possession belonged to that bankrupt dealer, not the artists. The SJC has interpreted the 2006 amendments to the law for the first time and clarified the roles of everyone involved. In full disclosure, I did some work for two of the artists (Dylan Stark and Robert Stark) at an early phase of the Bankruptcy Court proceedings. Eve Plumb, now an artist but also well known as the actress who played Jan Brady on The Brady Bunch, was another of the artist-claimants. In sum, once an artist delivers a work of art for sale for the purpose of exhibition or sale, it is a consignment, and the seller/consignee holds it in trust for the artist, regardless of the consignee’s own circumstances.
Topics: Legislation, consignment, United States Supreme Court, The Brady Bunch, Jan Brady, Allyson Wynne, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Debora Casey, Supreme Judicial Court, SJC, Bankruptcy, Wynne Fine Art Inc., Eve Plumb, Bankruptcy Court, consignor, G.L. c. 104A § 2, Kenneth Wynne III, G.L. c. 104A § 1, U.C.C.-1 statement, U.C.C. Secretary of State, Chatham, Chapter 7, Uniform Commercial Code, certified question, Dylan Stark, Robert Stark, Eve Plumb et al. v. Debra Casey, Jim Grace, SJC-11519, Arts and Business Council