Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"What I found was an art world that is this closed, secretive world."

Barbara Pollack profiles Meridith Savona and the FBI's Art Crime Team.

60 Minutes did a thing on the Knoedler case this weekend

You can see it here.  Features appearances by friends of the blog (and Advanced Topics in Art Law guest speakers) Jack Flam, Greg Clarick, and Jamie Martin.

M.H. Miller has some thoughts here.  AFC points out the segment "reveals little," which is true.  I think the problem is it's impossible to explain what happened to a lay audience in a format like this. If you get it -- if you understand how implausible it was that there would just be this vast trove of undiscovered works by the giants of Abstract Expressionism -- you get it.  But if you don't see that, Anderson Cooper isn't going to convince you of it in 10 minutes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

"That magic trick illustrates the fundamental absurdity of treating contemporary art as an investment vehicle." (UPDATED)

"In one simple statement, the creator took these 'assets'––ostensibly worth thousands of dollars each––and rendered them worthless to the market. So the next time you hear a silver-tongued broker explaining the wisdom of adding living artists' works to your portfolio, ask him how he'd feel about investing in Facebook if Mark Zuckerberg could suddenly 'de-authenticate' a few thousand shares any time Goldman Sachs pissed him off : )"

Tim Schneider on the Simchowitz-Mahama settlement.

UPDATE:  Brian Frye asks some good questions in the comments at Schneider's blog:  "I wonder about the metaphysics of 'de-authentication.' In other words, does it always work? And to what extent? If so, why does the market (i.e. investors) allow the artist to unilaterally determine the 'authenticity' of the work? Can you imagine a circumstance in which the market would ignore the artist's ipse dixit?"

Cady Noland is of course relevant here.

So This Is Chrismas

"The outlook for Douglas Chrismas, the founder of one of Los Angeles’s oldest and largest galleries, seems to be growing bleaker by the day.  Sam Leslie, the forensic accountant who now runs the day-to-day operations of the gallery, has officially terminated Chrismas’s role with Ace Gallery and has filed a lengthy status report to the court, documenting millions of dollars diverted to mysterious accounts and dozens of works of art that have been moved to private storage."

"Prosecutors allege that Zukerman engaged in a complex scheme to avoid paying New York State sales and use taxes on the purchase of those paintings."

Sales tax crackdown continues.

"A settlement was reached in a skirmish over ownership of Pablo Picasso’s plaster 'Bust of a Woman,' according to a filing in New York federal court."

Breaking news.  Background here.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Tell me again about the public trust (somehow, the museum has made peace with parting with more than 600 pieces of Chinese ceramics edition) (UPDATED)

The Met is selling them at Christie's.  They have 3,600 other Chinese ceramics, so it's not like selling off 15% of them is that big of a deal.  And it's not like "the essential point of museum collections" is that "once an object falls under the aegis of a museum, it is held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations."  Oh, it is?

UPDATE:  Daniel Grant emails a very good point:

"What struck me as odd is that the Met is defending its decision to sell (perhaps awaiting criticism of its move)...

"'About 60 percent of the things we’re deaccessioning came in 1879, so there wasn’t that much scholarship, there wasn’t that much discrimination,' Mr. Hearn. 'They’ve really been extensively reviewed; most have never been exhibited or published.'"

"...while disparaging these items in advance of a sale, which probably won't bolster the prices. I think the Met should pick one direction and stick with it."

Thursday, May 05, 2016

"By digitizing and replicating objects of cultural heritage, we risk inviting a host of legal disputes over access and ownership."

An interesting piece in the Boston Globe a few days ago by Sonia Katyal and Simone Ross, on (among other things) 3D printing, art, and copyright.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

"We are committed to rooting out tax abuses wherever we find them, especially in the art world, where the difference can be hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of dollars in lost tax revenue" (UPDATED)

NYT:  Developer Aby Rosen to Pay $7 Million in Suit Over Unpaid Taxes on Art.

UPDATE:  Tim Schneider thinks Rosen got a raw deal:  "[W]hile some dealers certainly view tax laws as made to be broken, I actually side with Rosen and Gelfand here, at least based on what's been reported. Given that transactions in the art industry can happen anywhere at any time, hanging works at home hardly means they're not actively on the market."