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Art Law

Recent Developments in Art Litigation and Art Finance

New AAMD Survey Reveals That Over 61 Million Visitors Attended Art Museums in 2014

Posted in Art Intelligence, Art Museums

I came across this article in ARTnews earlier today in which it was reported that a new survey introduced by the nearly 100-year-old Association of Art Museum Directors (“AAMD”) revealed that over 61 million visitors attended art museums in the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 2014.  The AAMD survey indicates that on the whole the AAMD members’ institutions are “stable in the wake of the global financial meltdown of 2008[.]”

The new survey is said to be the most comprehensive of its kind conducted by AAMD in that it covers nearly all of the 234 total membership (220 AAMD museums across the United States, Canada, and Mexico participated in the survey).

AAMD Executive Director Chris Anagnos found it reassuring that there was not a significant change in the figures for admissions (seven percent of revenue and support) and endowment (21 percent) since a less comprehensive survey was conducted by AAMD back in 2002.

Strikingly, the survey showed that although each visitor brings an average of around $8 in revenue to museums (i.e., between admission tickets and other miscellaneous purchases at stores and restaurants), museums spend an average of about $53 per visitor.  Portland Art Museum Director Brian Ferriso (the past director of AAMD’s public affairs committee when the association initiated the survey many years ago) succinctly responds that “[Museums] rely on donations.  A museum needs to be underwritten by the community.  That needs to be told.  The fear and challenge for many of us is we are seen to play more of an entertainment function versus [being] an essential part of a community and an essential part of a city and state.  We need to be seen as more like libraries rather than movie theaters.”

I was encouraged by the results of the survey (surprised, however, that corporate memberships are so low) and look forward to viewing future surveys, which the AAMD intends to conduct on an annual basis.  The collection of the same data each year will indeed enable the AAMD to identify trends, tell a story, and provide “greater transparency” in the art field.

Click here to access the AAMD survey results.

Old Fashioned Museum Meets Cyberspace

Posted in Art Museums

Last month, in a 21st century move, the National Portrait Gallery conducted an on-line contest for the public to pick the next portrait to be showcased on the museum’s prominently situated “Recognize” wall, located in the lobby. 

As part of the contest, the museum asked the public to select from a hodgepodge of three prominent Americans – (1) artist Georgia O’Keeffe, (2) civil-rights activist James Meredith, and (3) singer Bette Midler.  After a two week open vote, O’Keeffe won with 43% of the vote. 

This type of public outreach is exactly the kind of out of the box thinking a bricks and mortar museum needs to do in order to increase attendance and keep the public interested. 



Cézanne Painting Resurfaces On The Art Market For First Time Since 1936

Posted in Art Valuation

As recently reported by ArtNews, renowned Post-Impressionist French painter Paul Cézanne’s Vue sur L’Estaque et Le Château d’If (circa 1883-1885) will be up for auction at Christie’s London at the upcoming Impressionist and modern evening sale on February 4, 2015.  The prized painting’s estimated value is reported to be in the $12.5 million to $18.7 million range.

The painting originates from the collection of Samuel Courtauld, founder of the Courtauld Gallery and Institute of Art.  Courtauld purchased the work back in 1936, after which it remained in his private collection.  Upon Courtauld’s death in 1947, the art collector bequeathed his collection to the Courtauld Gallery and Institute of Art.

Remarkably, the Cézanne painting has not been active on the art market for nearly 80 years as it resurfaces at the upcoming Christie’s London art auction early next year.

Skate’s Releases Its Much Anticipated E-Commerce And Media Report For Winter 2014

Posted in Art Intelligence

On the heels of Skate’s inaugural issue of Skate’s E-Commerce and Media Report published this past September, this week Skate’s has released its E-Commerce and Media Report for Winter 2014.  I have yet to fully digest it myself and look forward to doing so over the upcoming holidays.

From a brief review of Skate’s website under “Art Market Reports”, the Winter issue promises coverage of a wide spectrum of e-commerce and digital media appropriate topics ranging from “The World’s Top 5 Listing Models by Digital Audience”, “Art Industry Growth Leaders” (Quarterly Audience Growth), “Online Art Trading”, and  “Art Media”, to “Top Artists Online” and “The World’s Seven Biggest Living Artists by Digital Audience as of October 31, 2014”.

As noted in an excerpt from the Executive Summary of the Winter issue, “digital audience growth in the last three months has been driven mostly by e-commerce, online auctions and art auction listing platforms, demonstrating a surge of interest in online art trading.”  The excerpt continues that this digital trading art audience growth is of a global nature as it is “spread across English, French, German, and Swedish language websites[.]”

Interestingly, it was shown by Skate’s research on the digital audience of the world’s most valuable artists that “all big brands have no digital strategy to speak of; Jeff Koons is the highest rated among peers.”

To access Skate’s E-Commerce and Media Report for Winter 2014, click here (if not already registered as a Skate’s member, you can do so for free in order to access the report).

Skate’s is widely recognized as the global leader in art business intelligence since 2004.

Unexpected Art Heist At Art Miami Fair

Posted in Art Recovery/Theft, Art Valuation

As recently reported, sometime between last Thursday evening and early Friday morning a thief or thieves stole a 1956 work by Pablo Picasso entitled Visage aux Mains (Face with Hands) from an Amsterdam-based gallery booth at Art Miami.  The Picasso work is a 16.5 inch in diameter silver plate and is worth an estimated $85,000.  The stolen work is one of a series of 20 plates created by the renowned Spanish artist.  Interestingly, a significantly more expensive Picasso ceramic valued at $365,000 was hung below the stolen Picasso silver plate and was not touched.

Last week’s art heist has been classified by the Miami police as a grand theft.  A $5,000 reward has been issued by Art Miami for the return of the Picasso work with no questions asked.  The reason behind the relatively low amount for such an expensive work is because it is thought that the thief or thieves may have been after the plate’s silver (estimated to be valued at around $400 when melted down) instead of its value on the art market. 

The stolen work has been reported to an international database of stolen and missing art works known as the Art Loss Register (click here to read our previous post on the ALR).

Art Miami is recognized as the best-known satellite fair to Art Basel Miami Beach, which recently wrapped up this past weekend. 


Christie’s Contemporary Art Auction Sets All-Time Record For An Auction

Posted in Art Finance, Art Valuation

Not to be outdone by its rival, Sotheby’s, as reported here, last week Christie’s in New York surpassed its prior record of $745 million set back in May at Christie’s contemporary art auction and brought in the “highest-ever for an auction” at its recent contemporary art auction “grossing $852.9 million across 75 lots.”  Nearly all of the total 80 lots offered for sale had buyers for a sell-through rate by lot of 94 percent.

The two top lots of the evening were Andy Warhol’s Triple Elvis [Ferus Type] (1960) and Four Marlons (1966) fetching $81.9 million and $69.6 million, respectively.  The third highest lot of the evening, Cy Twombly’s Untitled (1970), sold to a phone bidder for $69.6 million.

Also notable at last week’s contemporary art auction, new artist records were set for 11 artists, including Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Peter Doig, Martin Keppenberger, Sturtevant, and Seth Price.

Christie’s Chairman and International Head of Postwar and Contemporary Art, Brett Gorvy, noted at the press conference following the auction that there were some 500 bidders from 43 different countries and that this was a “collecting-buying pool tonight, rather than dealers.”

For a further recap of last Wednesday evening’s contemporary art auction at Christie’s, click here.

Contemporary Street Art Emerging in Athens, Greece

Posted in Current Art Exhibits

The country’s recent experiences with the hardships of economic collapse and unemployment have led to a new wave of innovative, contemporary street art in Greece.  And, the rise of socially and politically-minded graffiti is making Athens a new hotspot for street artists.

Embracing this status, the city of Athens hosts the Athens Street Art Festival, an Annual Independent European Contemporary Street + Urban Art Festival established provide a platform for artists operating outside of traditional systems.

slide_381232_4525338_free                                                                                                                Photo credit: Milos Bicanski

View a survey of Greek graffiti, photographed by Milos Bicanski, here and here.


Delaware Museum of Art Receives Generous Donation Despite Recent Move to Sell Off Art

Posted in Art Finance, Art Museums

The Delaware Museum of Art, home to the Bankcroft Collection – a beautiful collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, recently received three generous gifts totaling $1.7M from two anonymous donors and prominent Wilmington, Delaware residents, Peggy and Edgar S. Woolard.

The museum invested the funds in what has been named the Annette Woolard-Provine Endowed Curatorship, which is designed to attract talented scholars to the museum.  The generous donations come as a surprise given the museum’s recent controversial decision to sell off certain works of art including the Pre-Raephaelite painting by William Holman Hunt, O.M., R.W.S. (1827-1910), Isabella and the Pot of Basil, which recently sold for over £2,882,500 (a record auction price for the artist) at Christie’s (London).

After expensive renovation and expansion over the last several years, the museum was faced with mounting debt and little options.  Consequently, in March of 2014, the museum’s Board of Trustees elected to deaccess up to four works of art from the collection.  As a result of this controversial decision, the museum was formally sanctioned by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), which instructed member museums to refuse to lend artwork to the museum.  Pursuant to AAMD guidelines, “[f]unds received from the disposal of a deaccessioned work shall not be used for operations or capital expenses.” (emphasis added).

While the AAMD’s directive to museums regarding deaccession (i.e., that proceeds from the sale can only be used to acquire more art) may protect collections from being dismantled willy-nilly, hard and fast rules preventing museum board’s from making decisions to sell off works when appropriate may not be the most effective means of protecting collections.  In reality museums have limited space, and if the collection is overflowing, much of the artwork may not even be on display for the public to enjoy.  Further, some donated works while generous may not fit with the museum’s collection and remain in storage for no one to view.  It may be helpful in limited circumstances for museums to have more autonomy to deal with deaccession decisions and the use of the proceeds as they see fit without losing other benefits.  However, trustees must carefully weigh the cost/benefit to deaccession.  Even if a museum is not formally sanctioned, there is a danger that a museum will lose donations of art and/or funding, if donors believe the art will be sold off.  Luckily, in the case of the Delaware Museum of Art, the generous donors still chose to give to the museum despite the recent sales.

In order to avoid the need to sell off works, museum trustees may look to generate revenue from other means such as developing tuitioned visual art programs for children on winter weekends; and/or marketing the museum as an event space including investment in kitchen facilities and strategic exhibit layouts that works to maximize total attendees to events.  I also wonder if rotating art and changing the exhibits of even the permanent collection (like department stores do) would generate more visitors.


Sotheby’s Fall Impressionist And Modern Auction Is A Success Setting Record High Of $422M In Sales

Posted in Art Finance, Art Valuation

Earlier this week Sotheby’s opened the fall auction season with an impressive record high of $422 million in sales in a single auction for the world’s fourth oldest auction house in continuous operation.

As reported here, of the 73 lots up for auction, 15 lots did not sell, hence the average sell-through rate of 79 percent.

The fall Impressionist and modern auction’s top lot during the evening was Alberto Giacometti’s Chariot (1951-52), which sold after just one $90 million bid (final price with premium was $100.97 million) from a phone bidder who surfaced at the end.  Notably, the final price with premium is just under the artist’s $104.3 million record for the work L’homme qui marche I, auctioned by Sotheby’s London in 2010.

The evening’s second highest lot included the record-setting Modigliani sculpture Tête (1911-12) that ultimately sold for $70.73 million surpassing the artist’s previous record set in 2010 at $68.96 million with a painting.  A private Chinese collector represented on the phone by Sotheby’s Beijing was the successful bidder in the sale of the evening’s third highest lot, Vincent van Gogh’s Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies (1890), at $61.8 million.

For a thorough recap of Sotheby’s fall Impressionist and modern auction sale earlier this week, click here.

Ninth Circuit to Rehear En Banc Appeal Re: California Resale Royalties Act

Posted in Litigation Issues

Last week, the Ninth Circuit agreed to rehear en banc an appeal of a federal court decision striking down the California Resale Royalties Act (the “Act”).

The Act required sellers to pay artists 5 percent of the resale price of all fine art sold in California or put up for sale by California residents.

In October 2011, certain artists proposed three class actions against Christie’s, Sotheby’s and eBay alleging that the auction houses failed to pay royalties owed to the artists pursuant to the Act.  In May 2012, U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen dismissed the claims, finding the Act in violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by impermissibly requiring royalties from transactions occurring outside California between non-California parties.

Read more here and here.