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Art Law Blast [5.31.2017]


To help you plan your art law calendar, check out the full listing of and upcoming events on our radar.
* June 8, 2017 --  Art Law Mixer: Estate Planning for Artists (VLA, New York, NY)

Do you have to die to be appreciated? Maybe. Do you have to wait to think of your legacy? Not at all. Every artist, famous or not, should have an estate plan (just in case); after all, famous or not, we are all mortal. All too often, public appreciation (in more than one sense) of artists' work increases upon their death.

Center for Art Law is hosting its third annual Spring-Summer art law mixer at the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. We are looking forward to diving into the subject of trusts and estate planning and learning about programs available for aging artists with Amy F. Altman, Peter V. Arcese, Barbara T. Hoffman, Betsy Dale and Irina Tarsis.  The evening is designed to provide a useful overview for emerging and established artists who are interested in preserving their legacies in a way that aligns with their values. Living Artists Wanted!
* June 8 - 9, 2017 -- Vandalism & Art Conference (Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, The Netherlands)

During this two-day conference organized by Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL), speakers will discuss instances of vandalized art and modes of restoration, highlighting recent developments in restoration methods. Attendees will have the opportunity to share their experiences and exchange ideas in relation to defining new policies when dealing with acts of vandalism. 
* June 13, 2017 -- EASL SPRING SYMPOSIUM 2017: Art Law Skills and Practice (NYC)

The afternoon session provides a thorough analysis of the practice of art law transactions. The speakers will review the skills necessary to represent the artist, the dealer, the buyer, and the seller. CLE Credits available. 

* June 20, 2017 -- Forming you For-Profit Arts Business (Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, New York, NY)

On June 20th, from 4 - 6 pm, Betsy Dale, Esq. of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts will discuss issues involved in starting an arts-related business. From selecting a business name to financing and insuring your business, this workshop provides valuable legal and financial information for those hoping to open up shop within the arts. 

* June 23 - 25, 2017 -- Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference (Boccarini College, Amelia, Italy)

Geared towards international organizations, national enforcement agencies, academics, cultural institutions, and private sector professionals in the art and antiquities fields – the Amelia Conference follows a long-established commitment by the Association to examine contemporary issues of common concern in the important field of art crime. In doing so we hope to further awareness and understanding of the need for better protection of the world’s cultural patrimony.
* June 26 - 30, 2017 -- Art in Corrections: Building Bridges to the Future (Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California)

With the aim to build a network of mutual support for artists working within correctional facilities, speakers will include artists and art administrators, educators, lawyers, and other allied professionals. The program’s workshops and panels will provide an opportunity to discuss and learn about best practices, current research models and results, legislative updates, restorative justice, and perspectives from different state art councils. 
* July 3 - 9, 2017  -- Identity and Conservation of Contemporary Artworks: duties and responsibilities (Venaria Reale, Torino, Italy)

This week-long summer school will examine the theoretical and practical issues involved in protecting contemporary works of art through the lenses of conservation, philosophy, and law. The program will address questions regarding the role of the restorer today and how to preserve art made with non-traditional materials, all while staying true to the artist’s intentions. Speakers include artists, art historians, restorers, curators, attorneys, and professionals in related disciplines. 
* July 4 - 5, 2017 -- Art in Law in Art Conference (Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Hosted by The University of Western Australia Law School, the conference will explore the intersection of visual art and law from two perspectives--how law sees visual art and how visual art sees law. The conference will feature an interdisciplinary mix of experts who will speak to the complexities of the art-law nexus. 

NOTE:  Be sure to check out our calendar for more events!
What's New:
Felicitations and Salutations: The Center for Art Law extends a big thank you and bids farewell to its team of Spring 2017 interns: Heather DeSerio (NYLS, JD Candidate, 2017), Marine Leclinche (Cardozo, LLM Candidate, 2017) and Tyler Maxin (NYU, BA in Music and Religious Studies, 2016), Alexandra Terrell (Schulich School of Law, JD Candidate, 2019). The Center is pleased to introduce our incoming Summer 2017 interns: Madeleine Conlin (Yale, BA Candidate 2019), Colby Ann Meagle (Pepperdine University School of Law, JD Candidate 2019), Samantha Smart (Johns Hopkins University, BA Candidate 2018),Wylie Rechler (Cardozo, JD Candidate, 2019).
News from France "No fake fakes" Since the 2016 fake furniture scandal at Versailles, France has reportedly introduced more stringent measures to protect national institutions against forgeries. These include a new handbook for museum curators, directors and internal acquisitions committees. As well, research and conservation centers have been established to authenticate objects before they are acquired by national collections. 
News from Britain "Brex forgeries" A London-based tech startup believes it has found the solution to identifying forged paintings; and artists, such as Chuck Close, Gary Hume and Eric Fischl, agree. In conjunction with frame-maker Mark Derbyshire and software developer Steve Cooke, Tagsmart introduced a 32-38 mm, synthetic DNA tag that adheres to canvases. These tags are recorded in a digital database that includes a certificate of authenticity and a provenance record. Additionally, they are “virtually impossible… to reverse engineer” and become ineffective upon being tampered with. Despite the security that Tagsmart affords both artists and collectors, many remain dubious as to the efficiency of this system. (TM)

News from Turkey: "You Win Some, You Lose Some" In late April, the two top auction houses made the news in connection with Turkish artifacts offered for sale. Largely unreported, on April 26th, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism halted the sale of an 800-year-old manuscript at the Sotheby’s auction in London. Hüseyin Şen, a Ph.D. student at Utrecht University, realized that the manuscript up for sale was likely the same one that had been stolen from the Yusuf Ağa Manuscript Library 17 years ago. He notified the Ministry, which confirmed it was indeed the stolen manuscript. It will soon be returned to the Library. On April 27th, the day before the Christie’s auction in New York, the Turkish government filed a claim to freeze the sale of the marble figure known as the “Guennol Stargazer”. Turkey alleged that the statue was looted in the 1960s and should be returned to the country in accordance with the patrimony laws it had in place at the time. The judge denied the claim, stating that Turkey should have been alerted to the statue’s whereabouts earlier--it was displayed at prominent institutions as early as 1966. The statue sold for a staggering $14.4 million at the April 28th auction. (AL)

Old Problem New Convention:  Council of Europe is collecting signatures for a new international instrument to curb "Offences relating to Cultural Property." The new Convention incorporates by references the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, its First Protocol of 1954 and Second Protocol of 1999; the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and its Operational Guidelines adopted in 2015 by the third Meeting of States Parties; the 1972 UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage; the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects; the 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage; as well as the Resolution 2057 (2015) on cultural heritage in crisis and post-crisis situations, adopted by the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 22 May 2015 and the International Guidelines for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses with Respect to Trafficking in Cultural Property and Other Related Offenses, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations with its Resolution 69/196 of 18 December 2014.

VARA Victory Junction: Katherine Craig's "The Illuminated Mural" on a wall of a 9-story building in Detroit will remain undisturbed following a settlement between a real estate developer who wanted the mural removed and the artist.

What's in an ExLibris? An online purchase by a Swedish professor of a rare 16th-century manuscript from Italy leads to the discovery of dozens of objects stolen from Italy in 2012.

Cost of moral bankruptcy: In addition to paying over $1,000,000 in restitution to two of his victims, art dealer Perry Rubenstein will face jail time for 180 days followed by three years of probation. Rubenstein pleaded no contest to two counts of grand theft by embezzlement. After moving his gallery space from New York to Los Angeles in 2012, Rubenstein declared bankruptcy. His victims allege that, as an intermediary, he pocketed sale proceeds instead of giving them to their respective purchasers. (WR)
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Republic of Turkey v. Christie’s, Inc., 1:2017cv03086 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 28, 2017) A U.S. Court has granted Turkey 60 days to verify that it is the lawful owner of Guennol Stargazer, a 5,000-year-old, marble statue originally found in the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Eastern Thrace of Turkey. Upon discovering the statue, Turkey brought action against Christie’s for auctioning Guennol Stargazer in its April 28th “Exceptional Sale” for approximately $14,000,000

Thrasher v. Siegel, 2:cv-17-3047 (W.D.CA, Apr. 24, 2017) Last month a street artist, Monte Thrasher, brought action against Marci Siegel, for ordering the destruction of his mural “Six Heads” without giving the artist the 90 day notice required by VARA. Thrasher claims that Siegel was operating a bar inside the building that “Six Heads” was painted on and that she planned to replace it with a mural promoting her business. The complaint notes that “Six Heads” achieved great renown in the Los Feliz area it occupied since the mid-1990s. Thrasher seeks punitive damages and the opportunity to restore “Six Heads.” 

US v. Erik Ian Hornak Spoutz a/k/a Robert Chad Smith, a/k/aJohn Goodman, and a/k/a James Sinclair (C.D.N.Y., Feb 16, 2017) Michigan art dealer, Erik Spoutz, was sentenced to 41 months in prison for wire fraud charges arising out of his sale of dozens of forged artworks purportedly by renowned postwar American artists such as Willem De Kooning, Robert Indiana, and Joan Mitchell. He allegedly started to sell forged works of art as early as 2005 under various aliases. Despite Spoutz attempt to provenance for the artworks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Adams declared: “Spoutz falsified a complex series of seemingly original documentation of each piece’s provenance: bills of sale, letters from art dealers, correspondence from prior owner’s estates, etc.”

Pulphus v. Ayers, Civil Action No. 17-310 (U.S.D.C . Arp. 14, 2017) A high school student, David Pulphus, whose artwork (“Untitled #1”) won an art competition and was chosen to be displayed in the Congress halls, filed a federal lawsuit because his work was removed from the Cannon Tunnel in the U.S. Capitol Complex, after several Congress  members complained about the paintings as being anti-police. The painting depicts a confrontation between police and protesters on the street in downtown St. Louis, and two officers in the forefront have the heads of pigs or warthogs. The lower court denied the plaintiffs’ request for preliminary injunction relating to the retroactive removal of Mr. Pulphus’ artwork. It was found that the painting's removal from the halls of Congress did not violate the artist's First Amendment rights. Appeal is anticipated. 

Naruto v. Slater 15-cv-04324, 2016 WL 342231, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 18, 2016). In January 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a copyright infringement suit brought by PETA on behalf of a selfie-taking, six-year-old macaque named Naruto. PETA alleged that defendants, a photographer and publisher, unlawfully claim ownership of the photographs that Naruto snapped of himself while playing with Slater’s camera. The Court held that the Copyright Act does not extend standing to non-humans and therefore the case was properly dismissed. On appeal, PETA stands by its original claim that Slater is not the rightful owner of the photographs. Oral arguments are scheduled for July 12, 2017.

For a full list of books and articles featured previously,
please visit our Publications page.*


Culture in Crisis: Preserving Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, 2016).  Produced by The Antiquities Coalition in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, this book features contributions from students in the conflict management program. Each student explored a specific topic related to looting, trafficking, and destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq. The result is an interdisciplinary look at a wide range of issues in the field from both an academic and practical perspective. Available here. 

Loretta Würtenberger, The Artist’s Estate: A Handbook for Artists, Executors, and Heirs, (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2016).  This is the first publication produced by the Institute for Artists’ Estates in Berlin, Germany.  It has received the attention of critics worldwide and is now in its second edition. The handbook provides an overview of approaches for developing and maintaining an artist’s estate, from appropriate financing models to garnering interest from the art market and museums. Through several international examples, Würtenberger makes recommendations on best practices in handling work and archives following an artist’s death. Available here.


Christina Roodt, Private International Law, Art and Cultural Heritage, (Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc., 2015). 
Covering issues from restitution to material heritage and provenance, the author reveals how private international law can improve methods of dispute resolution. She explores how the law can be better tailored to address issues in illicit trade of cultural objects and title laundering. This book offers unique and refreshing perspectives for international policymakers, adjudicators, law enforcement officials, and legal scholars. Available here.


Indigenous Intellectual Property, Edited by Matthew Rimmer, (Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc., 2015). This handbook is a compilation of contributions from experts in the fields of Indigenous law and policy with a focus on copyright law, trademark law, patent law, trade secrets law, and cultural heritage. The book examines developments on the national scale in the United States, Canada, South Africa, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia. The contributions provide an overview of the historical origins of conflicts over Indigenous knowledge and assess future challenges arising from developments in information technology, biotechnology, and climate change. Available here.

May Headlines: 

Recent Articles:

Spotlight: The Rise of Two Midwest VLAs

*By Abby Placik The first pro bono arts organization in the United States, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, was established in New York City in 1969 (“VLANY”). Other robust creative communities that needed legal assistance, such as Chicago, Cleveland and other Midwestern cities soon followed. For example, a young group of lawyers formed the “Creative…Read more Spotlight: The Rise of Two Midwest VLAs Read in browser »
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