Art Law Report

Building a Responsible Art Market in New York May 23, 2019

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 29, 2019 at 5:48 PM

As promised, here are the details and registration information for the Responsible Art Market initiative's inaugural US event on May 23, 2019 at Columbia University.  The preliminary program is below (some sponsors still pending), sign up today today to attend (free)! 

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Topics: Jane Levine, Switzerland, Appraisers Association of America, Suzanne Gyorgy, Sotheby's, Megan Noh, ARTnews, Art Law Centre, University of Geneva, Responsible Art Market initiative, Justine Ferland, CitiBank, PAIAM, Sarah Douglas, Birgit Kurtz, Gibbons P.C., Rebecca Fine, Athena Art Finance Corp., Pryor Cashman, Linda Selvin, Jennifer Mass, Scientific Analysis of Fine Art, LLC

Event—Global Auction House Summit in London, February 4-6, 2019

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 13, 2018 at 12:16 PM

I am pleased to be speaking on a panel at the upcoming Global Auction House Summit presented by Invaluable, the leading technology partner for online auction services.  I will be presenting on the issues of Managing Reputation & Risk, and look forward to a lively discussion.  The conference schedule is reprinted below, and registration is available here

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Topics: Auctions, London, Melanie Gerlis, The Art Newspaper, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Events, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Art Loss Register, Real Estate Development, Affordable Housing, Institutional Shareholder Services, Proxy Voting Policies, John Albrecht, US Trust, ARTMYN, Cuseum, Andrea Danese, Athena Art Finance, Jakob Dupont, Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers of Fine Art, Lori Hotz, Lobus, Bas Kuiper, Sophie MacPherson, Julian Radcliffe, Global Auction House Summit, Leonard Joel, Martina Batovic, Dorotheum, Evan Beard, Anna Brady, Anthony Calnek, Brendan Ciecko, Pierre Fautrel, Obvious, Andy Foster, Phillips, Financial Times, Dr. Anna-Sophie Hollenders, Raue LLP, AMFAD, Christopher McKeogh, Gene Shapiro, Sarah Wendell Sherrill, Mary-Alice Stack, Creative United, Rob Weisberg, Invaluable, Georgina C. Winthrop, Grogan & Company, Shapiro Auctions

Event—The Future of Nazi-Looted Art Recovery in the US and Abroad

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 25, 2018 at 1:20 PM

I am pleased to be taking part in a symposium at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles on September 26, 2018, “The Future of Nazi Looted Art Recovery in the US and Abroad.”  Presented by Cypress LLP and the Sotheby’s Institute of Art/Claremont Graduate University, the program assembles an impressive group of presenters in whose company I’m grateful to be included.  Registration is available here, and the schedule is below:

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Topics: Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Nazi-looted art, Simon Frankel, Commission for Looted Art in Europe, Covington & Burling LLP, Anne Webber, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Daniel McClean, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, HEAR Act, Isabel von Klitzing, The Orpheus Clock, Simon Goodman, Lucian Simmons, Eyal Dolev, Jonathan Petropolous, Claremont McKenna College, The Faustian Bargain, Laurence Eisenstein, Eisenstein Malanchuk LLP, Lothar Fremy, Rosbach & Fremy, Nixon Peabody LLP, Mark Labaton, Getty Institute, Bob Muller, René Gimpel, Cypress LLP, Jonathan Neil, Skirball Center, The Art World in Nazi Germany, Dr. Lynn Rother, Thaddeus Stauber, Stephen Clark

Au Revoir, Droit de Suite—9th Circuit Narrows California Resale Royalty Act to a Single Year’s Sales

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 9, 2018 at 10:33 AM

The idea of moral rights continues to be a notable difference between European and American intellectual property rights with respect to visual arts. Last week’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in a case brought by artist Chuck Close and others addressing the California Resale Royalty Act (the CRRA) underscores those distinctions. In holding that the CRRA is mostly preempted by federal copyright law and thus can be applied to entitle artists to secondary royalties only for sales of art in a single calendar year—1977—the 9th Circuit affirmed the skepticism with which American law continues to regard anything other than classic copyright. Given the failure of efforts to pass national legislation to provide for resale royalties, this decision is probably the end of the line for the foreseeable future in the U.S. for droit de suite, the term of art used to describe the concept.

There is, for better or worse, clearly no political constituency for resale royalties in the U.S. As I told Law360, and as we’ve opined before about the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), property rights are in many ways a quintessential American policy. We all reflected on the Declaration of Independence last week, and its proclamation of the primacy of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—which revised John Locke’s famous statement that governments are instituted to secure “life, liberty, and property.” Copyright is and always will be a limitation on absolute ownership, but Americans guard those limitations jealously. There is little sign that will soon change.

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Topics: American Royalties Too Act, Chuck Close, Commerce Clause, Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, Christie's, Cal. Civ. Code § 986(a), VARA, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Dormant Commerce Clause, Preemption, droit de suite, California Resale Royalty Act, U.S. Constitution, Sotheby's, eBay, CRRA, Declaration of Independence, Copyright Act of 1976, Morseburg v. Baylon, John Locke, Supremacy Clause, 1909 Copyright Act

What About Margarethe Mauthner? Van Gogh Once Owned by Elizabeth Taylor Heads to Auction Again with Scant Mention of its Persecuted Former Owner

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 26, 2018 at 9:19 AM

Since the passage in 2016 of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act, many commenters (here included) have grappled with what the implications of the law will be on the scope and frequency of future claims.  Even as litigants are faced with policy arguments about whether individual claims belong in U.S. courts—arguments that the HEAR Act should have put to rest—it is occasionally worthwhile to consider how prior cases would have been affected.  Such analysis can draw into relief why the law was such a significant step forward.  This week, news that a painting by Vincent Van Gogh once owned by Elizabeth Taylor will go to auction again provides one such example.  A beautiful painting in the collection of the biggest movie star in the world makes for a great sales pitch, but missing in the coverage is any mention of Margarethe Mauthner, a German Jew who owned the painting before fleeing the Nazi regime.  The exact circumstances under which she lost possession of the painting are unclear, but those circumstances might have had the chance to be determined had the HEAR Act been passed earlier.  The importance of that opportunity is worth considering as the law is assessed going forward. 

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Topics: Margarethe Mauthner, Nazi-looted art, Van Gogh, Christie's, Holocaust Victims Redress Act, Sotheby's, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, HEAR Act, A Tragic Fate, Vue de l'asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy, Alfred Wolf, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Cassirer

Members of the Berkshire Museum File Appeal Papers to Stop Museum's Planned Sale of 40 Works from its Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 16, 2018 at 6:56 PM

 (Boston, MA, January 16, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed its papers in the appeal by its clients, the members of the Berkshire Museum who sued to enjoin the museum’s sale of 40 works of art and sculpture.  The appeal was brought as a result of the Berkshire County Superior Court’s November 7, 2017 denial of their request for an injunction, and dismissal of the case.  That order denied not only the members’ request, but also a motion by another group that includes Norman Rockwell’s sons and the motion by Attorney General Maura Healey to pause the sale originally scheduled for November 13, 2017 at Sotheby’s in New York—a sale that would have included Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop and other masterpieces. 

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Topics: Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, Zenas Crane, Hudson River School, Frederic Edwin Church, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Maura Healey, Massachusetts Appeals Court

Members of the Berkshire Museum Appeal Ruling on Planned Sale of Critical Pieces of its Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 20, 2017 at 10:22 AM

Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed an appeal on behalf of its clients, the members of the Berkshire Museum who sued to enjoin the museum’s sale of 40 works of art and sculpture.  The appeal is brought as a result of the Berkshire County Superior Court’s November 7, 2017 denial of their request for an injunction, and dismissal of the case (before the Appeals Court utlimately enjoined the sale until at least December).  That Superior Court order denied not only the members’ request, but also a motion by another group that include Norman Rockwell’s sons and the motion by Attorney General Maura Healey to pause the sale originally scheduled for November 13, 2017 at Sotheby’s in New York—a sale that would have included Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop and other masterpieces. 

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Topics: Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Berkshire Museum, Zenas Crane, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Attorney General, Maura Healey, Berkshire County Superior Court

Members of Berkshire Museum File Suit Seeking Injunction Against Sale of Art Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 26, 2017 at 11:52 AM

Forty Masterpieces of American and European Art Scheduled for Auction

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Topics: Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Zenas Crane, Trustees of the Berkshire Museum, Hudson River School, Frederic Edwin Church, Pieter de Hooch, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop

When Will We Get There?  The World Gathers in London to Consider the State of Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art.

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 15, 2017 at 5:13 PM

The National Gallery London hosted on September 12, 2017 the much-anticipated conference “70 Years and Counting: the Final Opportunity?” organized by the United Kingdom Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport (DCCS), and the Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE). Delegates from numerous countries gathered to consider the state of progress on the efforts to identify and return works of art lost during the Nazi era.  While the event had a truly international flair, the discussion centered primarily on the five countries that have created some sort of process to consider assertions of looted art in response to the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art: England, France, Austria, the Netherlands, and Germany. 

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Topics: Victoria and Albert Museum, Kunstrückgabebeirat, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, National Gallery London, Constantine Cannon LLP, Commission for Looted Art in Europe, Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, Christie's, Advisory Commission, Johannes Nathan, Monica Dugot, Imke Gielen, Sotheby's, Neumeister Auction House, Richard Aronowitz-Mercer, Tony Baumgartner, Clyde & Co., John Glen, UK Spoliation Advisory Panel, The Orpheus Clock, Art Restitution Advisory Board, Margreet Soeting, H. Blairman & Sons Ltd., Katrin Stoll, Department for Digital Culture Media & Sport, DCCS, CLAE, 70 Years and Counting: the Final Opportunity?, Gabriele Finaldi, David Lewis, Minister for the Arts Heritage and Tourism, Sir Paul Jenkins, Dr. Antonia Boström, von Trott zu Solz Lammek, Simon Goodman, Sir Donnell Deeny, Jan Bank, Restitutions Committee of the Netherlands, Dr. Reinhard Binder-Krieglstein, Professor Dr. Reinhard Rürup, Jean-Pierre Bady, Commission pour l’indemnisation des victimes, CVIS, Dr. Christian Fuhrmeister, British Library, Nathan Fine Art, Stedelijk Museum, Pierre Valentine, Martin Levy

Conference in Cambridge—“From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective”

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 31, 2017 at 10:55 AM

I am speaking at a conference on March 23-24, 2017 at the University of Cambridge (UK) entitled “From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective.”  My presentation will address the various national panels created in response to the Washington Conference by European countries to address claims for Nazi-looted art in state collections.  The roster of speakers is impressive (present company excluded), and it promises to be a fascinating two days.  The program is available here, and the conference website is here

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Topics: Wiesbaden, London, Holocaust Art Restitution Project, Paris, Art Recovery Group, Constantine Cannon LLP, Emily Löffler, Pierre Valentin, Events, Johannes Nathan, Karlsruhe, Marc Masurovsky, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Emmanuelle Polack, Leopold Museum, Frankfurt, Jewish Claims Conference, Victoria Louise Steinwachs, Debbie De Girolamo, Tabitha I. Oost, Bianca Gaudenzi, Jewish Museum Prague, Robert Holzbauer, Tessa Rosebrock, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Laurel Zuckerman, Shlomit Steinberg, Richard Aronowitz-Mercer, Maike Brueggen, Nathalie Neumann, Simone Gigliotti, Royal Holloway University of London, Anne O. Popham, Ulrike Schmiegelt-Rietig, Isabel von Klitzing, Landesmuseum Mainz, Michaela Sidenberg, Mary Kate Cleary, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Fluchtgut, Diana Kostyrko, Elizabeth Campbell, University of Denver, Evelien Campfens, Leiden University, Angelina Giovani, Jennifer Gramer, Agata Wolska, Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam, Friederike Schwelle, Art Loss Register, Provenance Research & Art Consulting

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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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