Thursday, March 31, 2016

Messier (UPDATED)

Counterclaims in the Simchowitz suit mentioned here.

UPDATE:  AFC:  "Everyone in this case sounds insane."

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Is a Popemobile held in the public trust?

If not, why not?

The church is a 501(c)(3) organization, just like museums are.  Does that mean that "we" own all its assets?  Of course not.  So why is it any different for works of art?

"Replace 'Caspersen' with 'Knoedler' in this @matt_levine column and you have some great art-market analysis"

Says Felix Salmon.  The column ("Real Investment Adviser Sold Some Fake Investments") is here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Local activists see it as a precious piece of Chicago’s waterfront, a place of open views and public ownership."

The New York Times had a piece a couple days ago about the battle over the museum George Lucas wants to build in Chicago, where, amusingly (to me anyway), supporters of the museum have bumped up against the real "public trust doctrine."  (As I explain in my chapter in this collection, there is a public trust doctrine, but it's not at all what the Deaccession Police think it is. For them, it's just a phrase they've latched onto to achieve their policy goals.)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016


The NYT's Randy Kennedy reported last week that the National Academy -- "the nation’s oldest continuously operating artists’ society" -- is selling its Fifth Avenue home and moving to ... no one knows where.

As far as I can see, this has been greeted mostly by crickets.  Lee Rosenbaum has been attempting to work up some outrage, but so far no one seems to be following her lead.  Maybe it's out there but I missed it.

Compare that to the apoplectic reaction several years ago when the museum sold two of the more than 7,000 works in its collection, with the same goal in mind:  to give itself "the financial freedom to think more creatively about how to exist in the 21st century."

Why is the one sale not a big deal and the other the end of the world as we know it?

Are the buildings not "held in the public trust" to exactly the same extent as the artworks?

How do some assets come to be held in the public trust and others not?  What is the mechanism?

It's almost as if the notion that the works are held in the public trust is a convenient fiction.

"Sandy-Related Art Damage Suit Against Christie's Is Revived"

The New York Law Journal [$]:  "The panel cited Kimberly-Clark Corp. v. Lake Erie Warehouse, Div. of Lake Erie Rolling Mill, 49 AD2d 492 (4th Dept 1975), in which that court noted that while the UCC permits a warehouseman to limit the amount of liability, it cannot completely exempt itself from liability as imposed by UCC Article 7."

You can read the decision here.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Whose art is it?

Two views of the question, from Kanye West and Richard Prince.

Prince's position is currently being tested in the courts.

Monday, March 14, 2016

"Will report back to you all in a generation to see if my instincts were right."

Tim Schneider on the Artist Pension Trust, which I mentioned last week:

"Personally, I'm torn about this concept. On the one hand, I'm in favor of anything that will get artists to invest and, as a result, gain some of the same financial security that workers in other sectors of the labor market enjoy. On the other hand, my gut tells me that most, if not all, artists would be better off if they just opened an IRA, used the proceeds from 20 sales to buy a low-cost S&P 500 index fund, and re-invested the dividends until retirement."

Disaster averted

A couple years ago, I mentioned a New York state court decision that "could wreak some serious havoc on the world of authentication litigation."  Briefly, the First Department had held that, unless a plaintiff can produce an expert who examined the work before he bought the work and can testify that it’s the same work that he now has in his possession, he would lose.

Now, in a subsequent decision in the same lawsuit, the First Department narrows that rule to the specific (odd) facts of this case:

"Contrary to defendants' contention, our decision need not have disastrous effects on the art market. We limit both this decision and our decision on the prior appeal to the facts of this case, i.e., a situation where defendants did not claim until many years after the sale and consignment that the artworks were forged, and they were unable to produce the people who had custody of the art between the time defendants sold it and the time they returned some of it to the United States; and plaintiff claimed that defendants, or the non-produced custodians of the art, forged it; and the custodians resided in a country that did not abide by the Hague Convention, so that plaintiff was unable to obtain evidence from them."

So if you've got a case with facts like that, you're in trouble.  Otherwise, as you were.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

"If the investigation advances, Bouvier could face fraud charges in the U.S." (UPDATED)

Bloomberg:  "Federal prosecutors, following the lead of European authorities, have opened an inquiry into one of the art world’s consummate insiders, Yves Bouvier[,] ...according to people familiar with the matter. The move marks the first time that federal authorities have trained their sights on a scandal that has shaken Europe’s notoriously private ecosystem of art dealers, middlemen and collectors. While still in its infancy, the U.S. probe also underscores prosecutors’ general concerns about the opacity of the market in art -- which, like high-end real estate, can serve as a conduit for money laundering."

Some background here and here.  And there was a good article in The New Yorker recently which I think I neglected to link to at the time.

UPDATE:  The Art Market Monitor:  A "thin, vague" story.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

"Since its founding, the trust has evolved significantly."

"This month it will make its first distributions, rather than wait to make a large payout at the end of a 25-year period as originally planned, along the lines of a pension fund."

The New York Times looks at the Artist Pension Trust at age 10.

(Oddly, it seemed to turn 10 two years ago too.)

However old it is, there still seem to be some reasons for skepticism.

Apparently they are held in trust for the public of the city of Bradford only

Because it's "an appalling act of cultural vandalism" to move a collection of photos to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Christie's Suing the Mugrabis (UPDATED 2X)

For non-payment ($32M) on a Basquiat.  Story here.  Court papers here.

UPDATE:  A response from Jose Mugrabi.

UPDATE 2:  That was quick.  Settled.

Art dealer charged with fraud previously tried to sell the Matter Pollocks

Story here.  Background on the charged dealer here.  Background on the Matter Pollocks here.

"Somehow, the museum version of the 'public trust' doctrine provides that artworks protected by the public trust cannot be sold unless it is convenient."

"It is telling that the legal scholars who have considered this argument have been ... unsympathetic. And that proponent of the 'public trust' argument tend to respond to criticism by raising their voices."

Brian Frye gears up for a panel discussion on the Detroit "grand bargain" with some thoughts on the state of the deaccession debate.