The US. District Court for the District of Columbia recently denied a preliminary injunction seeking the reinstallation of a controversial “anti-police” painting at the U.S Capitol complex.

David Pulphus, a student artist from Missouri’s First Congressional District, and William Lacy Clay, the congressional representative for that district, filed a lawsuit claiming that their First Amendment rights to free speech were infringed upon when the Architect of the Capitol, Stephen T. Ayers, removed Pulphus’s painting from a display of student art.

Pulphus’s painting was selected to represent Clay’s congressional district in the 2016 Congressional Art Competition, and was hung in the Cannon Tunnel in the U.S. Capitol complex in June 2016 with the other winning artwork.  The painting was removed several months later by the Architect of the Capitol (who oversees the competition), after receiving several complaints that the painting was “anti-police.”

The Court prefaced its opinion stating that “[a]lthough the Court is sympathetic to plaintiffs given the treatment afforded Pulphus’s art, under controlling authority this case involves government speech, and hence plaintiffs have no First Amendment rights at stake.”

Read the Court’s opinion here.

The “Fearless Girl” was created by sculptor Kristen Visbal and erected in Bowling Green in honor of International Women’s Day in March.  The statue has become wildly popular.  Although set to be removed next week, it will remain in place until early 2018.  However, not everyone is supportive of the artwork.

Fearless Girl Statue by Kristen Visbal New York City
Photo by Anthony Quintano, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license (unaltered)

“Fearless Girl” defiantly faces Wall Street’s famous “Charging Bull” statue, which was created by sculptor Arturo Di Modica, who copyrighted and trademarked his creation.  Di Modica believes “Fearless Girl” subverts the meaning of his artwork, and his lawyers have accused the company that commissioned the statue of improperly commercializing D. Modica’s bull in violation of the copyright.

Read more here and here.

The New York Times recently reported that its readers are divided on the issue of whether the original intent of the artwork should be able to stand over time and how much public art is protected.  Read the article and NYT’s readers’ comments here.

 

ArtNet news recently reported that the painting of a slumbering child painted by American illustrator Norman Rockwell (pictured below) has been returned to its rightful owners by the FBI.  The recently recovered work has been known by various titles over the years including Taking a Break, Lazybones, and Boy Asleep with Hoe.

The painting was owned by the Grant family for nearly 20 years before it was stolen in 1976.  Last year, the FBI issued a press release marking the 40th anniversary of the theft of the painting.  In response to the press release, an antiques dealer contacted the Bureau’s art crimes division to say he thought he might be in possession of the work in question. The anonymous dealer handed over the Rockwell and is not believed to have been involved in the theft or subject to any charges.

The painting sold in the 1950s for $100, but the current fair market value of the work could be as much as $1 million.

Read more here.

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.

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

Further to our post below regarding the trial over the authenticity of a painting alleged to have been made by the Scottish painter Peter Doig, some interesting notes regarding the waning days of the trial were captured by artnet.  Among them:

* The lawyers and the Judge differed as to the pronunciation of Doig’s name;

* During cross-examination, the attorney representing the plaintiffs asked whether the work in question was a painted by “Captain Butterknife.”

* The question of whether Doig was incarcerated at Thunder Bay as alleged by the plaintiffs appeared to have been left unanswered.

The final verdict is expected to be given orally in the coming weeks.

Read more here.

By Daniel Schnapp.

The New York Times recently reported that actor Alec Baldwin contends he was betrayed by a gallery owner and artist, whom he thought had made his dream come true.  Baldwin has long admired a 1996 painting by Ross Bleckner titled “Sea and Mirror.”   He even carried an image of the painting in his wallet.  So when a gallery owner reported that she could deliver the painting to Baldwin, he paid the $190,000 and hung the painting in his Manhattan office.

A few months later, Baldwin discovered there was something off about the painting—the “new” smell, the colors.  Baldwin now contends that the gallery owner sent him a copy of the painting, and tried to pass it off as the original.

Counsel for the gallery owner denies any wrongdoing by his client.  He reported that Baldwin was advised that he was going to receive a different version of “Sea and Mirror” painted by Bleckner.  Baldwin denies ever being told that he was receiving a copy.

Read the full story here.

14PAINTING1-master675

The Ross Bleckner “Sea and Mirror” at Alec Baldwin’s Manhattan office.

Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times