Friday, February 29, 2008
I think we can rule out the finder, as he seems to recognize (he says he would like the heir to get them, though he "would like the court to compensate him, too, covering his expenses and maybe throwing in a little reward"). As between the insurer and the heir, typically an insurance company acquires whatever rights the insured has to the paintings when it pays off a claim, so unless there was something unusual about this particular situation, the insurer would seem to have the pole position.
"Frank Boye has sued Sotheby’s alleging 'breach of contract and breach of fiducuary duty regarding two paintings by Paul Fisher and wrongly delivered by the defendant to the wrong person on 2006 after receipt of due notice of ownership.' They seek $ 1 million."
Thursday, February 28, 2008
"It appears Rauschenberg threw this stuff away. It is not like he's creating phony Rauschenbergs and putting his name on it"
The defendant's lawyer is quoted as saying: "Rauschenberg is an incredible artist. But what happens when that incredible artist discards material? Do the laws of abandonment apply?"
The only similar lawsuit I'm aware of is Frank Stella's 1982 suit against dealer Stephen Mazoh, which involved two damaged paintings he intended to throw away but which disappeared from the landing outside his studio and ultimately found their way to Mazoh's gallery. The case settled, with Stella recovering the works and destroying them.
"Since, at present, there is no legal definition of 'forced sales,' courts are in the process of defining them"
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
She also has more on the increasing use of guarantees at Sotheby's over the last three years.
Monday, February 25, 2008
"I would like to be employed by my gallery to turn the stuff there -- the art -- into money so I can repay the debts I owe"
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The momentum seems to be staying with
It was art law day on the New York Times op-ed page yesterday. First, former State and Justice Department official Allan Gerson wrote about the "From Russia" exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts that was nearly canceled until the British Parliament enacted special legislation providing immunity to Russia against any ownership claims with respect to the loaned paintings. He argues that "the sad truth is that the British government and the
Also, Eliane Karp-Toledo, the former first lady of
UPDATE: Derek Fincham has some thoughts on the Machu Picchu issue.
Friday, February 22, 2008
The Fisk-O'Keeffe trial is over. Judge Lyle promised a ruling within 30 days.
Richard Lacayo notes: "If the O'Keeffe Museum gets its way, it seems to me it will be a Pyrrhic victory in public relations terms. Does the O'Keeffe really want to be known as the museum that seized an entire collection, an important teaching resource, from an historically black university?"
Thursday, February 21, 2008
For more on art and Section 1031, see here.
"Mr Parisot wanted to give a fraudulent provenance to the drawings so that he could increase the prices for her work"
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
UPDATE: More here.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
UPDATE: Confirmed. Two of the four paintings have been recovered. "Police said they found the two paintings in a white car that was parked on the precinct of a mental hospital which is only a few hundred meters away from the private collection, which is located in an exclusive residential area in Zurich."
Sunday, February 17, 2008
"The mundane reality is that many art thieves are simply not the sharpest grappling hooks in the toolbag" (UPDATED 2X)
Related article from a few days ago at cnn.com: "Everyone wonders, 'Why steal something you can't turn to cash quickly?' Art thieves do a simple risk versus reward evaluation, said Corine Wegener, associate curator of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Thieves know that 'even if they receive only a fraction of the work's market value, the cash gained was at low risk of death or injury -- museums can be a relatively soft target,' said Wegener."
UPDATE: Andrew Johnson in the UK Independent covers a lot of the same ground as Kennedy, as does Eric Gibson in the Wall Street Journal (Dr. No makes an appearance in all three pieces). CBC News talks to art theft scholar Noah Charney, who says "this is a classic example of contemporary theft by organized crime syndicates of works of art that will be used most probably for barter or collateral on a closed black market for equivalent value of other illicit goods like drugs or arms." Finally, an article in Slate looks at why it's so easy to steal art in Europe (short answer: "Smaller galleries and no guns").
UPDATE 2: More on Dr. No from Derek Fincham.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Tom Stoppard has now weighed in on the "burn" side: "It’s perfectly straightforward: Nabokov wanted it burnt, so burn it."
Tyler Cowen goes with "not burn": "Dead people don't count in the social welfare function. ... Nor is there an incentive problem. If we release Nabokov's papers as a book, maybe the next Nabokov will burn the manuscript in the first place. We're no worse off, compared to not releasing such manuscripts. Kafka told Max Brod to burn his works, but we're all glad Brod didn't. Think of the current generation as a player in the multiple selves game of the author (he could have burnt it himself long ago) and then the right answer is obvious." He also adds, in the comments: "A simple question to ask yourself is whether you would respect the wish of a parent to have a million dollar funeral, out of your money. The book manuscript is worth much more than that."
UPDATE: Tyler gets a lot of pushback in the comments, and responds here ("we limit all sorts of destructive transactions for the living, so why not every now and then a limitation upon the wishes of the dead?").
Thursday, February 14, 2008
UPDATE: Ed Winkleman: "In the case of Mr. Agis, who is 76 years old, and whose piece worked perfectly for 10 years before this freak accident, a charge of manslaughter strikes me as political scapegoating. Yes, the victims deserve justice, but will imprisoning this man really bring them such?"
"Oh, poor forgetful Fisk University. School officials there have spent the last two years begging the Davidson County Chancery Court to let them sell artwork from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection .... Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled last June that Fisk couldn’t pawn any of the works, explicitly outlining that the art 'was not given to Fisk to use as a source of revenue.' Fisk apparently didn’t get the memo. ... [T]hey asked Lyle yet again for the legal right to sell out—er, sell off the collection—this time to Wal-Mart heiress Alice L. Walton, who was hoping to showcase the art six months a year in her museum in podunk Arkansas. Last Friday, Lyle again told Fisk officials what they should’ve already known by now: They can’t sell the art."
As I mentioned yesterday, however, this overlooks the fact that in her September ruling rejecting a proposed settlement with the O'Keeffe Museum, Lyle practically ordered Fisk to make a deal with Walton's museum.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
"These federal raids on the Silk Roads Gallery in Los Angeles and on four California museums raise an interesting set of links between foreign, state and federal law. At issue is the illegal importation of antiquities from Myanmar, Thailand and China. Put aside the fact that since 2003, the U.S. has banned the import of all Burmese products.
"Since 1961, Thailand has made buried, concealed or abandoned antiquities state property. Other antiquities may be exported only with a permit. Permits are never granted. Since 1982, China makes all undiscovered antiquities state property.
"Cal. Penal Code §497 makes it a state crime to bring into the state property stolen or received in another state:
Every person who, in another state or country steals or embezzles the property of another, or receives such property knowing it to have been stolen or embezzled, and brings the same into this state, may be convicted and punished in the same manner as if such larceny, or embezzlement, or receiving, had been committed in this state.
"The Archaeological Resources Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 470ee (c) makes trafficking in archaeological resources wrongfully obtained under State or local law a federal infraction:
No person may sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive, or offer to sell, purchase, or exchange, in interstate or foreign commerce, any archaeological resource excavated, removed, sold, purchased, exchanged, transported, or received in violation of any provision, rule, regulation, ordinance, or permit in effect under State or local law.
"Does this combination of foreign, state and federal laws make the National Stolen Property Act almost irrelevant in states with laws like California’s?"
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Of all the strange aspects of the case, two stand out to me as the strangest.
The first is timing, or chronology. If it's contrary to O'Keeffe's intentions that any part of the Collection be sold, fine -- but then what have we been doing all this time? Why wasn't that finding made right at the beginning of the case? And how to explain the court's September ruling rejecting a proposed deal with the O'Keeffe Museum "in light of the possibility of securing a more advantageous solution with Crystal Bridges"? What was that about?
The other issue has to do with the O'Keeffe Museum's status as the successor to O'Keeffe. If this really is a matter of donor intent, then why couldn't the museum agree to waive this or that condition of the gift? I mean, if O'Keeffe were alive, and she had worked out a deal with Fisk like the one the museum, as her successor, worked out in the fall -- what sense would it make to say that deal was contrary to O'Keeffe's intent? She's the one making the deal. And if that's right, why should it be any different for the O'Keeffe Museum as her successor?
What am I missing?
For background on Kurtz, see here.
"As in all cases involving the theft of well-known artworks, the mystery is what the thieves intended to do with the paintings"
Ed Winkleman applies Occam's Razor: "Stealing artwork this famous strikes me as evidence of stupidity .... In this instance, I suspect the thieves saw an easy heist and didn't think much past that point. This deficiency will hopefully add to the swiftness with which they are caught."
Monday, February 11, 2008
247WallSt.com's John Ogg says it's a business erosion story: "Getty Images has a business model that is at risk in a wiki world with low-cost of entry for start-ups. In fact, it has seen more competitors launch competing interests over the last 12 to 18 months than it can possibly fend off. ... The value of stock photos just isn't quite what it used to be. You just don't have to pay that much for digital stock photos anymore. Because of the long-standing contracts that Getty has with major sports and entertainment venues, there is still a value to this company. But that value is capped because no one needs to use their photos for news, travel, design, reference and more. Alternatives are readily available for one-tenth of the cost."
"Armed robbers stole four important paintings by van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Cézanne from a museum in Zurich, the Swiss authorities announced Monday .... Three thieves, wearing dark clothes and ski masks, walked into the Emile Bührle Foundation, a private collection housed a couple of miles outside of Zurich’s city center ..., around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, a short while before the museum was due to close. ... While one held a pistol and ordered visitors and staff members to lie on the floor in the main room of the museum, the two other men removed the four paintings from the wall: Monet’s 'Poppy Field at Vetheuil,' 'Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter' by Edgar Degas, Van Gogh’s 'Blooming Chestnut Branches,' and Cézanne’s 'Boy in the Red Waistcoat.' Their total worth is estimated at $163 million."
Why would someone steal such well-known works? Derek Fincham can think of four possibilities.
Lee Rosenbaum reminds us of a previous occasion when the Bührle Collection was in the news.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Saturday, February 09, 2008
The next step is a trial beginning Feb. 19 to determine whether the entire collection should be turned over to the museum because Fisk has failed to comply with the conditions of O'Keeffe's donation.
So what's happened over the last few months is that Judge Lyle rejected a settlement between Fisk and the museum on the grounds that it was not in "the best interests of the people of the State of Tennessee" since there was a better offer available from Crystal Bridges -- but now she says Fisk isn't permitted to accept that better offer (leaving one to wonder in what sense it was ever "available" in the first place). And, to top it all off, there remains the possibility that the entire collection will be forfeited and end up in New Mexico.
I said nearly a year ago that supporters of the university, many of whom cheered the decision to reject the proposed settlement with the museum, "may come to regret the decision to leave twenty million on the table just because it wasn't forty," and that certainly seems more true than ever today: if the museum prevails at trial, Fisk will have gone from a situation where it would have had $20- or $30-million (or more) in cash and 99 of the 101 pieces in the Stieglitz Collection (not to mention the right to exhibit the signature work in the collection about 8% of the time) to a situation where it has . . . nothing.
Friday, February 08, 2008
"Two paintings by Pablo Picasso have been stolen from a Swiss exhibition. The artworks were stolen on Wednesday after closing time at the show of the artist's work in the small town of
Derek Fincham: "[T]hese works will never be sold on the open market, they are too widely known. I think a more interesting issue is security when these works are loaned out to regional museums like this one, which was the problem with works stolen in Nice last August. I think there are a lot of benefits to loaning works, and sharing collections; however there are trade-offs. Often these smaller regional museums have less-sophisticated security systems given their smaller budgets and collections."
Thursday, February 07, 2008
"Weston Naef, the Getty’s senior photography curator, said that the museum had been working to acquire the series for more than five years, but the sticking point had been copyright ownership of the images. In many cases, he said, Mr. Penn and Condé Nast ... share the copyrights to Mr. Penn’s images. And the Getty, which had long insisted that it be given copyright power over the trade series, along with the master set of the photographs, decided in the end to abandon the copyright demand."
The sale was negotiated by Pace/MacGill. No word on the price.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
The story hints that, unlike the typical recovered work scenario (which pits an innocent third-party purchaser against the victim of the theft), here the current owner may not have the cleanest of hands: it notes "some odd coincidences" in the case, including that the current owner, "a man who has admittedly lived a hard-knock life," was "raised on Broome Street a few blocks from the gallery ... where the painting was stolen in 1998. Some public records show he lived there at that time, though Mr. Beltrez said he moved in 1989."
Chris Marinello, general counsel of the Art Loss Register, is quoted as saying a police investigation of the theft was continuing, but no criminal charges had yet been filed.
As Boroff notes, it's unclear how much would actually be resolved by such a procedure:
"Proceedings may be contentious, lawyers said, with First Republic [which is owed tens of millions of dollars by the gallery and by Salander individually] casting a long shadow. Its loans are secured by a lien [against] all 'property of every kind and nature' of the gallery, according to a Jan. 3 court filing."
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
"His articulated artistic justifications for his juxtapositions make the transformative and critical nature of his copying evident"
"Photographs of other objects are not derivative works of those objects. First, a photograph of an object is not 'based on' that object: It is a mere depiction of it. Second, even if one were to find that a photograph of an object is based on that 'preexisting work' within the meaning of the definition of 'derivative work' in Section 101, such a photograph must still 'recast, transform, or adapt' the authorship in the preexisting work to be considered a derivative work. Such recasting, transformation, or adaptation does not occur in a photograph of an object."
Monday, February 04, 2008
"Applications for the warrants said under the scheme, that smugglers and art dealers were selling prehistoric artifacts to Americans, who were provided with inflated appraisals. Then the art dealers arranged for the items to be donated to the museums, so the donors could take a tax deduction. ... According to the warrants, many of the artifacts were sold to the donors for around $1,500 each and then appraised at prices just shy of $5,000. (Above that amount the paperwork requirements on a tax return grow stiffer.) For a taxpayer in the maximum tax bracket, the savings would be only about $700 a piece."
$700 seems a tad low, but in the right ballpark. The mention of "stiffer paperwork requirements" is a reference to the fact that it's at $5,000 that the need for a "qualified appraisal" kicks in. See IRS Form 8283.
It's another weird twist in a weird case, and I think to a large extent it's an inevitable consequence of the Chancery Court's decision to frame the analysis as what's in the best intersts of the people of the State of Tennessee, and then tackle that question in a serial way. So the proposed deal between Fisk and the O'Keeffe Museum was rejected because the Crystal Bridges Museum had put a better offer on the table (though, as I've argued, it's not so clear that it is in fact better). And now the Crystal Bridges deal might be rejected because another "better" offer has come along, even if it's on behalf of a museum that doesn't yet exist. What if yet another offer emerges while approval of this latest offer is pending? And who gets to decide which of these in many ways incommensurable offers is the "best"? The Court? Or the Attorney General, as the representative of the people of the State of Tennessee? If the latter, why not remove the process from the courts entirely and let the Attorney General just solicit all bids by a certain date and then make a decision (after all, who cares what Fisk thinks, right?). Don't forget, too, that the O'Keeffe Museum still has a counterclaim that the entire Collection should revert to it as a result of Fisk's violation of the terms of the original bequest. Wouldn't a more rational procedure have been for the Court to decide that counterclaim first and then, if it was denied, either let Fisk exercise its discretion to decide which transaction to pursue (my preferred outcome) or, if a best-interests-of-the-people standard were deemed preferable, charge the Attorney General with coming up with a process to ensure that the standard is met to his satisfaction? Or would that make too much sense?