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Art Law

Recent Developments in Art Litigation and Art Finance

Theft: 17 Artworks Stolen From Verona Museum

Posted in Art Museums, Art Recovery/Theft

The New York Times recently reported the theft of 17 paintings taken from the Museo di Castelvecchio, a museum located in Verona, Italy that is known not only for its artworks, but also for the historical and architectural value of the building that houses its collection.

Four men forced their way into the museum, disarmed the guard, and removed the 17 paintings that included works by Andrea Mantegna, Peter Paul Rubens, and Jacopo Tintoretto.  The estimated the total value of the stolen artworks is between $10.7 million and $16 million.

Italy’s specialized art theft police force is leading an investigation.  Read more here.

Bruce Mau: Winner of the Design Excellence Award

Posted in Art Museums, Current Art Exhibits

This year, the Philadelphia Museum of Art awarded the Design Excellence Award to Bruce Mau.  According to the Museum, “Mau is internationally recognized for his achievements in design, including visual identities, brand systems, books, packaging, and exhibition graphics.  His most recent work applies design tools and concepts to environmental, social, economic, and political problems.”

According to Newsworks, “Mau has made a successful career not so much designing objects . . . but crafting social reaction.  He is a champion of geodesign, an emerging field wherein designers take on social, political, and urban issues by applying design principles.  Mau has been hired to improve corporate branding, workplace culture, even whole countries.”

Read more about Bruce Mau here.

Mau’s innovative work is featured at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Perelman Building through April 3, 2016.  Read more about the exhibit “Work on What You Love: Bruce Mau Rethinking Designhere.


(Photo credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Paris Museums Reopen To Visitors This Week

Posted in Art Museums

As recently reported by The Art Newspaper, museums in Paris reopened their doors on Monday afternoon following a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the tragic, terrorist attacks last Friday.  The city’s network of 14 municipal museums is set to return to its normal Tuesday to Sunday operating schedule as of today.

The French Ministry of Culture held an emergency meeting with senior culture representatives over the weekend and is assisting institutions to strengthen security measures “on a case-by-case basis”.

We would like to extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and the people of France who remain in our thoughts during this difficult time.

Modigliani Painting Sells For $170.4 Million At Christie’s Auction

Posted in Art Valuation

As reported by the International New York Times, a painting of a reclining nude woman entitled “Nu Couché” (1917-18) by early-20th-century Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani sold for $170.4 million with fees this past Monday evening at Christie’s well attended “Artist’s Muse” themed auction in New York.  The buyer is businessman Liu Yiqian, who is among China’s most well-known billionaire art collectors.  The painting sold in nine tense minutes with six people bidding to win the desirable lot.  It was the second most expensive art work ever sold at auction.

Modigliani’s painting was the star lot around Christie’s Monday evening auction, which was designed to attract international buyers of the world’s highest priced art.  Modigliani nudes are regarded as “among the ultimate trophy paintings of the 20th century.”

It was reported that Monday evening’s sale of “Nu Couché” propelled “Modigliani into the $100 Million at Auction Club, whose members include Picasso (three times), Bacon, Giacometti (three times), Warhol and Munch.”

The seller of the Modigliani painting was guaranteed at least a $100 million minimum price.  Monday evening’s sale of 34 lots at Christie’s fetched an impressive $491.4 million.

Art Dealer And Warhol Authority Richard Polsky Launches Warhol Art Authentication Service

Posted in Art Authentication

In recent news, it was reported by ArtNews that art dealer and author (I Bought Andy Warhol; I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)) Richard Polsky, based in the San Francisco Bay area, launched Polsky’s Andy Warhol Art Authentication Service.  According to a press release, Polsky’s new art authentication service is “devoted solely to authenticating the work of Andy Warhol.”

As set forth on Polsky’s website, his evaluation requires the submission of a $2,500 fee in which his “decision is ultimately based on thirty-plus years of involvement with Warhol’s art.”  As for his qualifications, Polsky explains “[i]f you have spent your entire career immersed in an artist’s work, you develop a sixth sense about what is authentic and what is not.”

With the dissolution of the Warhol Foundation’s Art Authentication Board in early 2012, which was reportedly motivated in part by the Board’s desire to avoid lawsuits from art collectors who were dissatisfied with its judgments, Polsky observed that there was a real gap in the art market for the authentication of Warhol’s thousands of works and hence opened Polsky’s Andy Warhol Art Authentication Service.  As authenticity is at the core of purchasing a work of art, Polsky believed that it was important that someone qualified come forward to authenticate the work of Warhol.

For further information on Polsky’s Andy Warhol Art Authentication Service, click here.

“Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Posted in Art Museums, Current Art Exhibits

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is currently showing a new exhibition titled “Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life” through January 10, 2016.

The exhibition is a survey of the works of nearly 100 artists and showcases some of the finest examples of American still life.  It features more than 130 oil paintings, watercolors, and works in other media.  The exhibition is designed to demonstrate not only the genre’s variety, but also America’s changing identity and culture.

For more information, visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art website here.

Notorious RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Cultural Icon

Posted in Litigation Issues

“Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” co-authored by MSNBC reporter Irin Carmon and recent law graduate Shana Knizhnik, was released this week.

Notrious RBG(Source: notoriousrbg.tumblr.com)

The new book reimagines the Tumblr page and nickname created by Knizhnik in 2013 as a tribute to Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County v. Holder, a case that struck down a major part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Tumblr and nickname caught on with millennials and spawned a pop culture obsession with the Supreme Court justice.  Now you can find t-shirts, coffee mugs and even baby clothes emblazoned with Notorious RBG iconography.

Read more about the new book and its authors here and here.

Women Artists – Bourgeois’ Monumental Spider Sculpture Could Surpass O’Keeffe’s Record Breaking, Iconic Jimson Weed/White Flower Painting

Posted in Art Valuation

On November 10, 2015, Christie’s will sell Louise BourgeoisSpider (1997) at the auction house’s Post-War and Contemporary Sale to be held in New York City.  It has been reported that the sculpture will have an estimate of $25 million to $35 million, which could lead to an even higher hammer price.  As a result, Bourgeois may become the top-selling female artist of all time.

Bourgeois was a French born artist who immigrated to America in 1938.  She is famous for her dramatic oversized sculptural work.  Her spider series was a tribute to her mother.  According to reports, Bourgeois has said “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.”

Last year around this time, Georgia O’Keeffe became the highest-selling woman in art as a result of the $44.4 million sale of O’Keeffe’s 1932, Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1.  According to reports, this O’Keeffe painting was on display in George W. Bush’s private dining room at the White House when he was in office.  The painting was placed for auction by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico to benefit its acquisitions fund.

The top selling living female artist is Cady Noland for her screen-print Bluewald (1989), which sold this past May for nearly $9.8 million at Christie’s New York.

It will be interesting to see if Bourgeois’ Spider can oust O’Keeffe’s record. It would be even better if more living artists (particularly women artists) could enjoy fame and high art prices during their careers.

Frieze London 2015 Opens This Week

Posted in Art Valuation, Current Art Exhibits

Frieze London, recognized as one of the world’s leading contemporary art fairs, opens to the public today in The Regent’s Park, London and runs through Saturday, October 17, 2015.  In its 13 years, Frieze London has steadily grown into one of the biggest weeks in the art market calendar reports the International New York Times.

Frieze Week in London is a must-attend event for many in the art world and is best described as a combination of a destination fair with high-end auctions (nine this week estimated to raise a minimum of $276 million), museum exhibitions and art gallery shows.

This year’s Frieze will feature 164 galleries from 27 countries presenting the artwork of some of the most significant contemporary artists today.  The fair tends to attract the same international crowd that descends on Art Basel in Switzerland or in Miami Beach and the Venice Biennale each year.

Visitors to this year’s Frieze Week will have an opportunity to view and purchase art from over 1,000 leading contemporary artists today as well as experience the fair’s critically acclaimed Frieze Projects and Frieze Talks.  The prices for artworks typically run in the $10,000 to $1 million range.  Attendees of Frieze Week generally seek out the more established artists.

For a glimpse of the participating galleries and artworks being presented at this year’s fair, click here and here.

Using Bioengineered DNA As A Tool For Authenticating Art

Posted in Art Authentication, Art Recovery/Theft

Earlier today the International New York Times reported on a fascinating new authentication system that would allow living artists to “sign” their artworks with very small amounts of synthetic DNA.  Being that my passions include science and art, I couldn’t wait to write up this week’s Art Law blog post on this new scientific marking protocol (still under development) for authenticating art.

The Global Center for Innovation at the State University of New York at Albany is behind the development of this science-based approach for art authentication as the recipient of $2 million in funding from the ARIS Title Insurance Corporation, which specializes in art.  About two years ago, the New York Times reports, the Center, recognized for its work in the areas of bioengineering, encryption and nanotechnology, began the development of an approach to “infuse paintings, sculptures and other artworks with complex molecules of DNA created in the lab.”  It was important to have a marker that was difficult to locate and not susceptible to environmental issues or tampering and, of course, that living artists would embrace such an approach.

With forgeries one of the most “vexing problems” facing the global art market today, and artists’ foundations, curators, and independent experts no longer authenticating works for fear of being sued, the Center’s approach could not have come at a better time than now.

The Center’s new approach would “implant synthetic DNA, not the personal DNA of the artists, because of privacy issues and because a person’s DNA could conceivably be stolen and embedded, thus undermining the authority of such a marking protocol.”  According to the developers, the bioengineered DNA would be “unique to each item and provide an encrypted link between the art and a database that would hold the consensus of authoritative information about the work.”  A scanner, accessible to anyone in the art industry wishing to verify a work, could read the details of the DNA embedded in the artwork.

Artists and owners would need to purchase a “tag” (estimated to cost around $150) that could be used in applying the DNA.  Upon application, the “DNA would penetrate the work at the molecular level, so removing the tag would not eliminate the item’s forensic signature.”  In the development of the approach, it was critical that the application of the tags have no impact on the artwork.  ARIS, the financial backer of the approach, observes that deciphering and replicating the DNA would be all but impossible as even sophisticated counterfeiters would “leave [behind] microscopic forensic evidence” if they attempted to remove or replace the DNA.

Supporters of this new approach assert that potential purchasers and sellers could also check artworks for DNA codes to determine whether the works have been stolen—such action could block the resale of artworks by auction houses and galleries and lead to their recovery.

As of this report, about three dozen internationally recognized artists, archives, foundations and museums have signed up to test the technology, which could be ready by early next year.