The Shape Of Things

When it comes to copyright law, artists and dealers ought to be on the ball.

At last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach, we learned an important lesson: In the game of conceptual art, it pays to listen to the dealer’s pitch. This point was brought home to us at Jeffrey’s booth, where the dealer was exhibiting Fair Ball, a pale green baseball resting on a simple plywood plinth. Jeffrey and his rookie artist, Barnaby “Babe” Woof, wanted to know if the work could be copyrighted, since they planned to make millions by selling thousands of balls. Or was it thousands selling millions of balls? Continue reading “The Shape Of Things”

Crystal Clear

When considering insurance for fine art, it pays to carefully examine every facet of your coverage.

Amanda’s problem was crystal clear: She had recently inherited veritable glass menagerie of expensive artworks from her aunt Laura and needed advice on fine-arts insurance. Continue reading “Crystal Clear”

You Can’t Take It With You

But you don’t want to leave it all to the tax man. Given today’s high art values, estate planning is more essential than ever.

After a few too many whiskeys, a wealthy English art collector recently confided to us the crux of his estate tax plan: Following his death, his children had standing instructions to lock up all the good paintings in their castle’s dungeon. Since most of our U.S. clients don’t have castles—and don’t want their heirs locked up in dungeons by the authorities—we advise them to do some thoughtful estate planning to maximize tax benefits and ensure that their art collections end up in the right hands. Here are several approaches to estate tax planning used by collectors today. Continue reading “You Can’t Take It With You”

Deal Or No Deal

The appeal – and the legal and ethical complications – of buying a museum piece.

Although we tend to view professional conferences as occupational hazards (like long hours and short-tempered opposing counsel), the one on the sale of museum property sounded promising. Deaccessioning is a hot topic, thanks to the need for increasingly cash-strapped museums to find ways to balance their budgets while trying to stay out of the papers—or court. Depending on where one sits, deaccessioning is either the unethical removal and sale of public treasures or a useful means of refining a museum’s collection. Continue reading “Deal Or No Deal”

The Material World

When it comes to copyright protection, blending art and fashion creates many shades of gray.

What fools we were! We had read about the runway show Gagosian Gallery held during New York’s fall Fashion Week, which featured $4,000 jeans made by Levi Strauss & Co. and decorated with Damien Hirst’s famous skull pattern in Swarovski crystals. We had seen the Richard Prince exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, where guests were given an opportunity to preorder hand-embroidered Louis Vuitton bags designed by the artist and Marc Jacobs. But we hadn’t yet realized how interwoven the worlds of art and fashion have become. Continue reading “The Material World”

‘Til Death Do Us Art

What happens when a couple’s passion fades for each other but still burns for their art collection?

DEAR BROTHERS-IN-LAW: Last Valentine’s Day my husband served me breakfast in bed. This year his attorney served me with divorce papers. What’s up with that? —Sincerely, Mystified on Madison.
DEAR MISTY: Call us for an appointment, and bring a retainer check. Continue reading “‘Til Death Do Us Art”

At the Fair

When conducting business under the big top, certain ground rules always apply.

Like lemmings to the sea, we join the rest of the art world each December at Art Basel Miami Beach. None of our clients has ever drowned off South Beach, but given the feeding frenzy that now surrounds dealers at popular art fairs, more than a few have had close calls with sharks. Continue reading “At the Fair”

Dirty Pretty Things

Despite few laws on “blood diamonds,” buyers can take the initiative in this ethically charged area.

Although we like to think of ourselves as regular Perry Masons, many of our clients really just need the help of an Ann Landers (or, in some cases, Sigmund Freud).

Our art dealer client, Danielle, for instance, came to us shortly after her boyfriend proposed. Having wept through the film Blood Diamond on a transatlantic flight, Danielle was concerned that the stone in her engagement ring might have been illegally smuggled out of a war-torn African nation. Continue reading “Dirty Pretty Things”

Double Indemnity

When it comes to art theft, a variety of laws can help make the case for museums.

It was close to midnight when Paulie showed, and he hadn’t come alone. Next to him, in the shadowy corner of a midtown gin mill, slouched a young moll wearing too much lipstick and not enough skirt. “Our assistant curator for collections,” Paulie rasped by way of introduction. Continue reading “Double Indemnity”

The Proper Pedigree

The provenance of an artwork can greatly influence its value, so it pays to be protected from possible errors.

Like much of the art world, we head down to Art Basel Miami Beach every December for culture (sort of), sun and an escape from our legal practice in New York.  Occasionally we manage two out of the three.

Last year we ran into our old friend Madeleine while checking into our hotel, and before we could even get our room keys, she cornered us for some professional advice.  Madeleine was interested in buying an unsigned painting on display in the booth of a Chelsea gallery.  Continue reading “The Proper Pedigree”