The Tax Trotter

The Trotter Interview Files: Nick O’Donnell of the Art Law Report

Posted by Irina Pisareva on Jan 11, 2021 12:00:00 PM
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Last week the Trotter chatted with her partner and fellow blog editor, Nick O’Donnell. Nick’s practice focuses primarily on complex civil litigation, for which he has appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States. See Guelph Treasure Art Restitution Case Media Coverage. Nick’s blog, the Art Law Report, covers legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities, one of his areas of expertise.

Nick and the Trotter discussed the complaint filed by the New York Attorney General on November 6, 2020 against Sotheby’s and whether the art industry is to expect further scrutiny and enforcement action in light of the U.S. Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 ("AMLA"). The AMLA is part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 which became law on January 1, 2021 after the Congress overrode President Trump’s veto. For more insights from Nick on the issue of money laundering challenges in the art market see U.S. Senate Report Takes a Swing at Money Laundering in the Art Market But Comes up Empty on Substance

On Nick’s recommendation, the Trotter was delighted to discover a new museum, the Lenbachhaus, to virtually explore on New Year’s Eve. See Lenbachhaus - Collection Online and Lenbachhaus - Audio guide. She was also excited to discover that Nick shares her love for Boston’s quirky Grande Dame, The Isabella Gardner Museum. The Trotter’s most recent guilty pleasure are the digital series featuring Neighborhood Salon Luminary artists bringing fresh perspectives to the Gardner Museum’s historic collection through commissioned new works. See, e.g, Will Dailey video @ Luminary Lens | Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Ms. Isabella would be proud! The Trotter has also paid virtual visits to Nick’s favorite gallery Hauser & Wirth and museum MoMA in NYC.

Below is the transcript of the Proust Questionnaire-style portion of the interview:

What is your idea of a perfect gallery hop afternoon in Boston?

Newbury Street is not what I remember as a child, so I think it would be walking down South Washington Street, just popping in to see what catches my eye and of course stopping for a coffee or three along the way.

Please describe the Isabella Gardner Museum in 3 words or less

Quirky, serious, wonderful

Your favorite museum in New York?

The Museum of Modern Art

Your favorite art gallery in New York?

Hauser & Wirth

Your favorite century art-wise?


Define your recent Supreme Court experience in 3 words or less

Surreal, terrifying, gratifying

What is your current state of mind?

Restless for a return to normalcy

What do you consider the most overrated virtue in art?


Which words or phrases do you most overuse as an art lawyer?

Obviously. I’m working on it.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My wife and five children

When and where were you happiest?

In the mountains

What change in art law would make you the happiest professionally?

Fewer barriers to reach the merits of restitution claims

Which talent would you most like to have?

To play an instrument, something my parents tried very hard to pass on to me but I just would not practice. It is my biggest regret.

Piano, violin, drums or tuba?

Piano. I had an Estonian piano teacher as a boy and my whole life I feel like I let him down.

What do you consider your greatest achievement the field of law?

Bringing visibility to the issue of Nazi-looted art restitution

If you were not an art lawyer, who would you be?

I would own and cook at a diner in rural New England

Where would you most like to live?

Oberwald, Switzerland

What is your most treasured possession?

My skis

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Being bored

What do you most value in your friends?

Commitment and openness

Who are your favorite writers?

John Fowles, WG Sebald, Willa Cather, Joan Didion, John Irving

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Thomas More

Who are your heroes in real life?

My parents, my tenth grade English teacher, and my college art history advisor

What is your greatest professional regret?

Je ne regrette rien

What is your professional motto?

Don’t be a jerk

What is your favorite museum outside the U.S.?

The Lenbachhaus in Munich.

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About the Blog

The Tax Trotter brings you tax insights from around the world.

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.

Meet the Editor

Irina Pisareva

Irina Pisareva is Tax Partner in Sullivan's New York office. She specializes in tax structuring of cross-border debt and equity transactions, alternative investment funds and investment management companies, international taxation of securities and private capital.

Before joining Sullivan, Irina was a partner at EY where she served as a lead international tax service partner for private equity, credit and multi-strategy asset management firms with $2bln to $300+ bill AUM. In addition to her structuring and transactional practice, Irina developed programs to reduce organizational tax risk and optimize global effective tax rate for companies and family offices.

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