Tuesday, December 13, 2011


  • NEW YORK. Christie's may have successfully defended the fraud claims brought against it by Guido Orsi but as Donn Zaretsky says, the "chilling effect" of the principle (aka legal precedent) established by the suit remains: an auction house can be sued by a third party that has no contractual relationship whatsoever with such auction house.
  • LONDON/NEW YORK. The threat of legal action in connection with authentication opinions and compilations of catalogues raisonnés is having a "freezing effect on scholarship." As contemporary art prices continue to rise, the perception among academics is that collectors will go to far greater -- and litigious -- lengths to safeguard the economic (and indirectly, art historical) value of their art holdings. The fact that in reality the likelihood of an expert being sued is apparently "quite remote" is irrelevant so long as the perception continues to be otherwise. (Cf. to this post on the structuring of claims against authentication boards as anti-trust suits).
    See also a related piece by Jack Flam in the Wall Street Journal. The article states that compiling a catalogue raisonné is a "scholarly undertaking independent of the market" but I would have to disagree in that the inclusion/exclusion of a work submitted to a catalogue raisonné committee will affect its value on the market in a way not hugely dissimilar to an authentication board declaring a work "Approved"/"Denied" (except perhaps for the fact that compiling such catalogues is often a decades-long effort and so the effect on price is probably less severe as decisions take longer to make and are more often overturned as scholarly research evolves over time).
  • WASHINGTON D.C. Plaintiffs argue that "they have lost free speech rights and that Congress cannot erode the public domain." The Supreme Court is set to rule on a suit that centers around whether works of foreign authorship should be carved-out of the public domain and given copyright protection notwithstanding that their creators failed to comply with the legal formalities necessary to be afforded such protection. The government has defended the law on several grounds including the need to meet its treaty obligations but surely that's not the main concern given the number of other provisions of the Berne Convention (e.g., those related to moral rights) that have yet to be implemented under federal law...
  • FLORENCE. "No bankers. No Renaissance"? That seemed to be the message at a gathering in Florence of the most influential figures in the art world to discuss the intersection of art and finance. Hardly a novel idea (nor was the acknowledgment of the Eastern shift of the art market) but still interesting to see such an opinion openly and unashamedly aired given the enduring stigma attached to making a connection between art and finance.

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