After a 14-minute bidding war, Claude Monet’s 1891 painting “Meule” sold for a record $81.4 million.  “Meule” was among the offerings at Christie’s Impressionist and modern art auction held on Wednesday evening, which brought in a total of $246.3 million.

According to a Bloomberg report, Christie’s also set an auction record for Wassily Kandinsky whose 1935 abstract composition “Rigide et courbe” fetched $23.3 million.

Christie’s successful auction comes after dampened expectations for this week—Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips are targeting at least $1 billion in sales during this week’s auctions in New York, down 49 percent from a year ago.

Read the Bloomberg report here.

The Arts + Business Council of Greater Philadelphia is an organization dedicated to strengthening Philadelphia arts, culture, and for-profit creative businesses, by connecting the creative sector with the business, legal and technology communities.

One of the ways it fulfills its mission is through the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts program, which provides pro-bono and low cost legal assistance, educational programs and business counseling to artists, arts organizations, culture and heritage organizations, collectives, makers, inventors and startups in an effort to secure a thriving culture in the region and the innovation economy statewide.

Learn more here.

The New York Times recently reported that gallery owners and collectors alike are recognizing the link between the art market and museum exhibitions.  According to one art consultant:  “A museum show can be very influential for an artist.  It changes the price point, the popularity, the awareness a person has for an artist.”

For current owners, loaning artworks to a museum may increase its value, but is not without its risks—including potential damage, seizure and insurance issues.  And, for those looking to collect, buying artworks based solely on the fact that it has been exhibited in a museum may too just be a gamble.

Read the full story here.

The National Law Review recently summarized key lessons gleaned from Hoffman v. L&M Arts, et al., No. 15-10046 (5th Cir. Sept. 28, 2016), regarding the drafting and construction of confidentiality provisions for the sale of artwork.

Hoffman involved a claim for breach of a confidentiality provision in a Letter Agreement between Marguerite Hoffman, a wealthy art collector seeking to sell her “Untitled” 1961 Mark Rothko oil painting, and L&M Arts, a broker which was acting as an intermediary between Hoffman and the buyers, Studio Capital, Inc. and David Martinez.

The Letter Agreement included the confidentiality language: “All parties agree to make maximum efforts to keep all aspects of this transaction confidential indefinitely.”  In addition, the Letter Agreement required the buyers to not hang or display the painting for six months after the sale.

Several years later, the buyers auctioned the painting, which appeared on the cover of the Sotheby’s catalog and sold for more than $31 million.   In response, Hoffman sued L&M Arts, and the buyers for breach of the confidentiality provision of the Letter Agreement.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, among other things, found that the Letter Agreement was not breached and ruled in favor of L&M and the buyers.  Read the full opinion here.

National Law Review’s key lessons:

  • Confidentiality provision may be used to keep the sale of artwork secret, but have to be limited in scope so as to not be deemed an unreasonable restraint on the sale of property. A significant factor with respect to enforceability of such provisions is the length of the restriction.
  • Confidentiality provisions should clearly define its scope including date, time or geographic restrictions, as well as what each party to the transaction can and cannot do.
  • The parties to a transaction should always ensure that every party is bound by the confidentiality provisions, or, at the very least, include an indemnity provision for the breach of a third-party buyer when an intermediary is used.
  • In case of breach of the confidentiality provisions, parties should clearly draft the remedies and damages that may follow.

Read the full story here.

Support of living artists can be rare.

Everyone knows the cliché “starving artist.”

However, things are about to change across the pond.  Last week, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced a new program designed to fund artist’s studio space through the financing of a special trust.  The trust known as the Creative Land Trust has been established through public and private dollars to keep artistic talent in the city of London and to avoid artist flight due to astronomical housing costs.

Somerset House Studio, a mixed used historic building along the Strand, is the first to reap the rewards.

This is an encouraging step in ensuring that there is continued investment in the arts. Large American cities like Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco among others should take notice and strive to make similar investments.

In recent New York art world news, a dispute between actor Alec Baldwin and art gallerist Mary Boone has taken a new twist with the filing of a motion in New York State Supreme Court by Ms. Boone’s attorneys accusing Mr. Baldwin of committing fraud by failing to pay sales tax on a painting he had purchased from her in 2010.

The filing comes on the heels of a lawsuit brought by Mr. Baldwin against Ms. Boone over a month earlier alleging that the gallerist had defrauded him six years ago “by promising him a painting, “Sea and Mirror,” by the artist Ross Bleckner, for which he had paid $190,000, but supplying him another, similar Bleckner painting” by the same name.  Mr. Baldwin initially had concerns about the painting after he purchased it from the gallerist in 2010.  Mr. Baldwin has claimed that he was never informed that he would be receiving a different version of the painting and that Ms. Boone had “intentionally created a copy to appear genuine, and to fool him by passing it off as the real thing.”

In the motion to dismiss Mr. Baldwin’s lawsuit, Ms. Boone’s attorneys allege that at the time of purchase of the painting six years ago, the actor left delivery instructions that the painting be shipped directly to his home in California and then shortly after it had been delivered to the West Coast, the painting was shipped back to Mr. Baldwin’s apartment in New York.  Accompanying the filing is evidence that the painting arrived in Woodland Hills, California in late April 2010 and then was installed in Mr. Baldwin’s New York City apartment the subsequent month, describing this as a way for Mr. Baldwin to evade taxes of nearly $17,000.

Mr. Baldwin’s attorney asserts that Ms. Boone only seeks to “distract attention” from the actor’s claims and does not deny the primary allegation in Mr. Baldwin’s complaint.

Ms. Boone’s attorneys reject Mr. Baldwin’s lawsuit as false and believe it is invalidated by the statute of limitations because he took too long to bring his claim. In this latest filing, the gallerist’s attorney asserts that the two paintings are so different from each other that Mr. Baldwin should have known he was receiving a different version of the Bleckner painting.

 

In recent art world news, over 100 modern masterpieces from the art collection of Russian industrialist Sergei Shchukin will be on display at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris in a landmark exhibition running from October 22, 2016 through February 20, 2017.  The exhibition entitled “Icons of Modern Art.  The Shchukin Collection” reunites nearly half of the 275 works that once were on display in Shchukin’s Moscow mansion, which opened as a museum in 1908.

The collection was integrated into the State Museum of Modern Western Art after nationalization by the Bolsheviks in 1918.  Stalin ultimately shut down the museum as “ideologically inadequate” in the mid-20th century and considered Shchukin’s art collection “bourgeois”.  The industrialist’s works were eventually divided between the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, where they languished in storage rooms for decades until the 1970s.

Shchukin’s desire for then-radical works by such artists as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso was said to have rivaled that of the Stein family.  The industrialist forged relationships with leading dealers and artists at the time on his frequent trips to Paris between the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

Anne Baldassari, former director of the Musée Picasso in Paris and organizer of the exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, says that the Shchukin collection is “one of the great pioneering collections that has never received a comprehensive presentation” and “[a]ll curators working on the Modern period dream about staging a Shchukin exhibition.”

The exhibition was reported to have been made possible in part by “political will” after decades of dissension between Shchukin’s descendants and the Russian state.

“A selection of works by Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandr Rodchenko and Vladimir Tatlin, among others, traces the collection’s impact on the emerging Russian avant-garde.”  According to Baldassari, “[p]ictures often went from Picasso’s and Matisse’s studios to Moscow—no one had seen them in Paris.  [This was] Modern art as it was happening, when the paint was still fresh.”

To view select highlights of the exhibition, see The Modern Art Stalin Did Not Want Russians To See published online by The Art Newspaper on October 19, 2016.

In recent art world news, a painting recently sold by Sotheby’s for £8.4 million ($10.6 million) has been determined a fake causing concern that more high value forgeries exist in the art market.  In 2011, an anonymous buyer from the United States purchased the painting by Dutch artist Frans Hals.  Sotheby’s took back the painting after it was discovered by the auction house that the work was connected to another alleged fake.

The scandal dates back to this past March when French officials seized a 1531 painting entitled “Venus” by German artist Lucas Cranach at an exhibition in France.  That work sold for £6 million in London, but is being analyzed at the Louvre and is believed to be a fake.

An in-depth technical analysis established that the Hals painting was indeed a forgery.  Sotheby’s experts used pigmentation tests to determine that the work was “undoubtedly” a fake.  Thereafter, Sotheby’s rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full for the purchase of the fake work.

Concerns currently exist throughout the art market that there are up to 25 other fakes in it.  This could cost art investors a staggering £200 million.

 

The New York Times has reported that the estate of a German businessman has sued the Metropolitan Museum of Art last Friday to claim one of its valuable Picassos, “The Actor” (1904-05), alleging in the court filing that the museum does not hold title to the painting because the businessman was forced to sell the work for a low amount after fleeing the Nazis in the late 1930s.  The treasured oil on canvas depicts an attenuated male figure making hand gestures that signaled the beginning of Picasso’s interest in “the theatrical world of acrobats and saltimbanques” during the artist’s Rose Period.  The painting is estimated to be worth more than $100 million said lawyers for the estate in the court filing.

In the court filing it is alleged that the museum “did not disclose or should have known that the painting had been owned by a Jewish refugee, Paul Leffmann, who had disposed of the work only because of Nazi and Fascist persecution.”  The lawsuit alleges that the sale of the painting was made under duress to a collector of Picasso’s work and Picasso’s dealer for $13,200 in 1938.  In 1941, Thelma Chrysler Foy bought the painting through a New York art gallery for $22,500 and eventually donated it to the Met in 1952 where the painting has been continuously displayed since.  The lawyers for the estate said that they had conducted negotiations with the Met while the claim was being investigated by the museum, but the parties had never been able to reach a settlement.

In a statement, the Met “strenuously denied there were grounds for the claim, asserting that the 1938 sale had been for fair market value and had not been made under duress.”  The museum added that the German businessman and his family did not make any claim on the painting after the war when trying to reclaim property they had been forced to sell.

The lawyers for the estate have criticized the museum claiming that for a number of years it had given an “erroneous provenance” for the painting until being corrected in 2011.  The Met indicated that the provenance was not erroneous as it was based on the recollection of the buyer at the time.  The provenance reflected that the painting was owned by a German in Switzerland and was updated as further information became available, according to the museum.

The suit is Zuckerman v. Metropolitan Museum of Art, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-07665.

The New York Times has reported that two van Gogh paintings that were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002 have been recovered in Italy.

According to the article, the paintings were recovered as part of an ongoing investigation into organized crime by Italian authorities. Specifically the Italian authorities were investigating the Amato Pagano clan of the Camorra Mafia family, which is allegedly associated with international cocaine trafficking.

The works in question, “Seascape at Scheveningen” (1882) and “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen” (1884/85), were apparently stolen by burglars who climbed to the roof of the museum using a ladder, and then left through side of the building using a rope.

By Daniel Schnapp