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Art Law

Recent Developments in Art Litigation and Art Finance

Art Stocks: A Volatile Market

Posted in Art Finance

In August 2015, the combined market value of global listed art industry companies fell 21.9%.SASI_vs_SP_09_2005-01_2015

The Skate’s Art Stocks Index is designed to benchmark publicly traded companies that derive most of their revenues and profits from art assets and/or servicing art and collectibles markets around the world.

Only 3 out of 17 stocks included in the Index produced positive returns in August, but all 3 stocks (Artnews S.A., artnet.com AG, and MCH Group) are trading below their closing prices at the end of last year.  Skate’s reported that the worst performers in August were Shutterstock, Etsy, and Demand Media that each had significant negative returns this month.

The Index also demonstrates that all of the recent IPOs from the art industry are trading well below their IPO prices, which suggests art stocks are being impacted by market volatility.  Read more here.


Inaugural Seattle Art Fair A Success With Tech Industry Boost

Posted in Art Valuation, Current Art Exhibits

After this past weekend’s close of the Seattle Art Fair, the Emerald City has been catapulted into the international art scene having been categorized for so long as a regional art center.  Among the more than 11,000 who attended the Seattle Art Fair, Paul Allen, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and one of Seattle’s major cultural patrons, walked the aisles searching for artwork to add to his sizable private art collection.

As a regular visitor to the Venice Biennale and founder of the inaugural Seattle Art Fair, Allen was inspired to create an “art showcase in his hometown that would import a sophisticated, international art scene.”  The Seattle Art Fair, which ran from July 30 through August 2, 2015, was an opportunity for local artists and gallery owners to show their artwork on a larger stage.  There were 62 galleries from all over the world set up at the fair.

The inaugural fair was a success with some big-ticket sales, including a work by the Chilean artist Iván Navarro that fetched over $100,000 at the Paul Kasmin Gallery.  Works by Oscar Murillo and Christopher Williams likewise fetched five and six figures.

With an economy shaped by tech giants Amazon and Microsoft, the affluent in Seattle are growing wealthier than in any other U.S. city, including New York and San Jose, California, according to a recent study conducted by the Brookings Institution.

But, as the New York Times reports, this “tech-fueled growth does not necessarily add up to support for the arts.”  The tech industry needs to be shown what to appreciate about art.

According to the Seattle Art Fair’s website, the inaugural fair showcases “the vibrant culture and diversity of the Pacific Northwest by building on the region’s existing momentum to create a truly unique, innovative art event that further establishes Seattle as an influential player in the global art landscape.”  Indeed, after the success of this year’s fair, art collectors and enthusiasts alike can be assured that the Seattle Art Fair will most certainly be back next year.

Smuggled $27.4 Million Picasso Masterpiece Seized In Corsica

Posted in Art Recovery/Theft

As recently reported by ArtNews, French customs officials on the island of Corsica have seized a $27.4 million painting by Pablo Picasso entitled Head of a Young Woman (1906) that was banned from leaving Spain.  The prized painting had been declared a cultural treasure by a Spanish court back in May.

Corsican authorities had been tipped off about the attempted smuggling of the Picasso masterpiece en route to Switzerland.  According to the authorities, a search of the boat’s cargo revealed documents confirming that the artwork was of cultural importance and that it was leaving its home country of Spain without any legal permission.

The smuggled Picasso oil painting is from the artist’s “Rose Period” and features light pinks and beiges and is particularly prized because it shows Picasso’s shift into a Cubist style.


Restituted $39 Million Klimt Painting Sold at Sotheby’s London In June Will Be On Display For A Short Time Next Year

Posted in Art Museums, Art Recovery/Theft, Art Valuation

As recently reported by Artnet, there has been quite a bit of speculation surrounding the buyer’s identity of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt’s painting entitled Portrait of Gertrud Loew-Felsövanyi (1902) sold at Sotheby’s London back in June for $39 million.  Recent credible reports confirm that the buyer is British billionaire businessman Joe Lewis, who came into his fortune by way of foreign exchange market (forex) trading in the early 1990s.  Lewis’ art collection is estimated to be worth around $1 billion and includes works by Picasso, Matisse, Lucian Freud, sculptor Henry Moore, and, of course, Klimt.  Lewis is known to have a preference for Austrian modernism.

According to Artnet, the provenance of the Nazi-looted Klimt painting was determined just recently before the Sotheby’s London auction in which the painting was returned to the subject’s granddaughter.  Shortly thereafter, it was decided by the Felsövanyi family along with the Klimt Foundation to consign the artwork to Sotheby’s and share the profits.

The recent sale of the Klimt artwork has reignited a long debate back in Austria as critics of current restitution practices expressed their concern that “restituted masterpieces all too often disappear from public view as they go to private hands.”  Artnet notes that because public institutions are unable to raise the necessary funds to acquire expensive important artworks, these masterpieces often tend to find their way into either freeports or the art collections of the very affluent.

The painting will be on loan to the Neue Galerie in New York for an exhibition scheduled for next year entitled Women of Vienna’s Golden Age 1900-1918, which will run from September 2016 to January 2017.  The Neue Galerie is a museum dedicated to early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design.

Although the Klimt painting will be on display for a short time in New York later next year, the Austrian media predicts that the chances of it becoming permanently publicly accessible are “slim.”

Global Art Market On Brink Of A Leverage Boom To Drive Further High-End Art Sales

Posted in Art Finance, Art Intelligence

Skate’s Art Market Notes for July highlight that ultra-high net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) are purchasing more art and the trend is likely to continue.  According to high-level estimates of Skate’s (based on its extensive data mining), only about 11% of global UHNWIs with assets in excess of $100 million are currently invested in art.  These figures demonstrate that there is significant growth in the art ownership penetration ratio among global UHNWIs and a significant growth upside potential remains.

Skate’s hints that with the release of its Global Art Lending Report scheduled for next month, the impressive growth of the art lending business over the past few years will be revealed and a “perfect stage” for significant growth in global art lending will be portrayed based on the following factors:

(1) very low share of art assets leveraged today; (2) historically low interest-rate environment; (3) unparalleled growth in high-end art market liquidity; and (4) quickly expanding availability of stand-alone art lenders.”

Skate’s observes that with the above four factors working in synergy together, the art market is on the brink of a “leverage boom” that should drive further high-end art sales, supporting both supply (e.g., forced liquidation of art collateral) and demand (e.g., availability of leverage for key art purchases) sides.  Skate’s points out that the United States, which is the predominant art market globally (see Exhibit 1), offers the world’s preeminent infrastructure for art lending in view of simple and efficient liens registrations for art assets via a Uniform Commercial Code filing procedure that is “increasingly used in the global art trade to secure pledge over art as loans collateral.”

To access Skate’s latest Art Market Notes for July, including the World’s Largest Art Markets by High-End Art Auction Volumes for 2014 (Exhibit 1), click here.

Long Disputed Painting Reclaimed As An Authentic Rembrandt

Posted in Art Conservation/Restoration, Art Museums, Current Art Exhibits

An intriguing story recently appeared in the International New York Times regarding a long disputed painting that was recently found to be an authentic Rembrandt after all.  The controversial painting was cut down the middle and through its center in the 19th century and was likely to be sold as two Rembrandt paintings.  During the next 40 years or so, the painting was pieced back together with an entirely different canvas and covered with paint to hide the previous separation.

In 1898, the director of the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery (“the Mauritshuis”) in The Hague in the Netherlands displayed the painting in the museum in which it was entitled “Saul and David,” one of Rembrandt’s most significant biblical works.  Decades later in 1969, a leading Rembrandt authority discredited the painting, after which the painting hung for years in the museum by an accompanying label entitled “Rembrandt and/or Studio,” which was in effect a “serious demotion.”

After several years of close examination and meticulous restoration by the museum’s own team of conservators along with support from researchers from various outside institutions (i.e., Delft University of Technology, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Netherlands Institute for Art History, and Cornell University), the Mauritshuis has recently “reclaimed the painting as an authentic Rembrandt, saying it was painted in two stages by the master’s own hand, one of hundreds of surviving Rembrandt paintings.”  It is believed that Rembrandt began the work in 1645 and completed it in 1652.

Shortly after revealing its findings early last week, the Mauritshuis opened its summer exhibition entitled “Rembrandt?  The Case of Saul and David.”  The exhibition is focused entirely on this single work, which depicts the “young hero David playing a harp for an elderly King Saul, who is moved by the music and uses a curtain to wipe away his tears.”  According to the museum’s website, the exhibition “shows how, using the latest technology and research methods, fascinating discoveries were made about the creation, the history and the attribution of the painting.”

To see photos of the painting before and after the meticulous restoration and read further on the restoration and attribution process, click here.


Auction Houses And Galleries Listing Platforms Face Increasing Competitive Pressure From eBay

Posted in Art Intelligence

This week Skate’s issued its much anticipated Art E-Commerce and Media Report for Summer 2015.  A key finding of Skate’s latest report is that the listing platforms of auction houses and galleries are under growing competitive pressure from eBay as well as the independent digital strategies of their own clients.

As a result of significant efforts made by a number of auction houses on digital marketing, there is a shift in the power balance away from listing platforms to the auctions.

With eBay coming off a strong marketing campaign during this auction season, eBay is poised to gain more traction with the development of its Live Auctions as a sound alternative to listing platforms.  While generously funded by venture capital firms in 2013-2014, listing platforms will be forced to respond quickly or else see their business model become obsolete.

In view of these recent dynamics happening in the art e-commerce and media space, Skate’s expects the following developments summarized below:

  1. Consolidation across all the segments – a series of mergers and acquisitions in art-media and art-listing platforms already this year immediately followed by consolidation in the online art-trading space.
  1. Continued investment by major auction houses in their digital marketing with Sotheby’s just behind Christie’s in terms of digital audience size in Q3 2015.
  1. Response by major galleries to the digital challenge in the same way as major auction houses already did by investing in their own digital strategies.
  1. With eBay pushing into the art-auction listing space and gaining traction, eBay will increase its market share and listing-space dominance further this year in the United States.

It will be interesting to see how these expected developments evolve in the near future.

To access Skate’s  Summer 2015 Art E-Commerce and Media Report, click here.


Richard Avedon: Family Affairs at the National Museum of American Jewish History

Posted in Uncategorized

The National Museum of American Jewish History (“NMAJH”) in Philadelphia is featuring a special exhibition titled, Richard Avedon: Family Affairs through August 2, 2015.


The exhibition features a series of four portrait murals inspired by the revolutionary atmosphere of the 1960s and early 1970s, and a series of 69 portraits, originally published in Rolling Stone magazine on the eve of the 1976 election. The NMAJH will be the only U.S. venue for this exhibition.

Read more about the exhibition here.

Germany’s Clandestine Nazi-Era Art Market

Posted in Art Recovery/Theft

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a police raid in Germany that focused attention on an art market where collectors and dealers buy and sell works by artists favored by the Nazis. Read the full article here.

In a coordinated raid, German police recently seized nine “lost” Nazi-commissioned sculptures. If the investigation reveals that the works were in fact commissioned by the state and therefore property of the German government, then those from whom the sculptures were seized could face charges. Read more information about the raid here.

The raid shines a light on the black market for Nazi art and paraphernalia, the sale of which is allowed only under limited circumstances in Germany. While tens of thousands of Germans illicitly deal in Nazi paraphernalia, only 30 to 40 people in Germany comprise the Nazi art market.

Nazi art is frowned upon of course because of artworks relationship with fascist regime and most mainstream art galleries and auction houses in Germany avoid displaying and selling Nazi-commissioned artworks.

Picasso Painting Sets Record At $179.4 Million For Artwork Sold At Auction At Christie’s

Posted in Art Valuation

As recently reported by the New York Times, the spring art auction season continues in full swing in New York this time at Christie’s where Pablo Picasso’s 1955 painting entitled “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)” fetched $179.4 million (including fees) at the auction house’s “Looking Forward to the Past” sale of artworks from the 20th century yesterday evening.

According to Christie’s, the winning bid surpassed the auction house’s estimate of $140 million and was the highest on record for an artwork sold at auction.  The previous record setting auction high also occurred at Christie’s and included Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” paid by Elaine Wynn, co-founder of the Wynn casino empire, in November 2013.

Shortly after the winning bid on the Picasso, Alberto Giacometti’s iconic 1947-51 bronze sculpture entitled “L’homme au doigt (Pointing Man)” sold for $141.3 million (including fees), which represented an auction high for any sculpture.

This was the first time that two artworks with estimates of over $120 million each were offered for sale at the same auction.