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 raisonnĂ©s 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 raisonnĂ© 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 raisonnĂ© 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.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Affirmative action for non-Western art? No thanks.

Judith Dobrzynski recently posted a fascinating piece on some of the issues raised by Hicham Daoudi's three-year €450,000 grant to the Pompidou Center that "must be spent on art by Moroccan artists." While there's no doubt that the "source market" of an artistic object has a strong bearing on the value the international art market confers on such object -- with a lesser value being given to art originating from "transitional" and "developing" economies, to use Iain Robertson's terminology -- museums like the Pompidou are supposed to be independent (if there ever was such a thing in the art world) barometers of the aesthetic and art historical value of cultural artefacts and "affirmative action" grants entirely compromise their role. Furthermore, as the managing director of Art Holding Morocco and founder of the Marrakech art fair, it's Daoudi himself who stands to gain the most from the grant as the Pompidou's seal of approval will greatly enhance the value of his art holdings in Morrocan artists. Cunning market manipulation on Daoudi's part and an unfortunate precedent on the Pompidou's (notwithstanding that yes, museums are strapped for cash and money is apparently fungible...).

For more on the Marrakech art fair, click here.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Unexpected closing of Knoedler gallery arouses suspicion

NEW YORK. A Knoedler & Co. rep told Bloomberg the closure of the 165-year old UES gallery was a "business decision" but the unexpected announcement raised eyebrows as it came one day day after GLG Partners Inc. co-founder, Pierre Lagrange, filed suit in federal court against Knoedler and its former director Ann Freedman for allegedly selling him a fake Pollock back in 2007. Attempts by Lagrange to resell the $17m Pollock at auction in 2010 failed as both Sotheby's and Christie's "refused to accept consignment because of concerns about authenticity." The decision to close its doors may indeed be wholly unrelated to the Lagrange lawsuit but it certainly will not flare well in court.