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Lawsuit Against Pace Gallery Owners Over Agnes Martin Works Dismissed & Other Art World Headlines

UNITED STATES

Dealer’s Suit Against Gallery Owners for Declaring Agnes Martin Works Fakes Is Dismissed

New York Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit by the London-based The Mayor Gallery (The Mayor) against the owners of the Pace Gallery based on allegations that defendants “unlawfully declared that thirteen authentic Agnes Martin artworks are fakes, resulting in a loss … of more than $7 million.” The lawsuit asserted that defendants were financially motivated to exclude the works from their catalogue raisonné. In a 16-page decision dismissing the lawsuit, Justice Andrea Masley called the claims “vague” and “speculative.” The Mayor’s initial complaint was dismissed in 2018 as lacking merit; now, the court found that the new complaint did not assert any new facts to avoid dismissal. The Mayor reportedly anticipates appealing the decision.

Cady Noland’s Lawsuit Over Log Cabin Sculpture Hinges on Procedural Issues of Standing and Jurisdiction

Artist Cady Noland has filed her third complaint in a lawsuit alleging that a German collector’s unauthorized restoration of her famous Log Cabin Blank With Screw Eyes and Cafe Door (1990) sculpture “amounted to the creation of an unauthorized copy of the original.” Her lawsuit was dismissed twice before, with leave to re-plead, on the grounds that Ms. Noland’s complaint failed to state legally viable copyright infringement claims under the U.S. Copyright Act. Her latest complaint needs to demonstrate that an act of alleged infringement occurred in the United States and not abroad in order to survive another motion to dismiss. The defense has filed yet another motion to dismiss, arguing that the third complaint does not state that the alleged infringement first took place in the United States, but rather in Germany, and as such, Ms. Noland’s challenges in this case are not actionable under the U.S. Copyright Act.

Thrift Shop Sketch Is a Schiele Original

A “part time art handler” who frequents second-hand shops purchased a sketch from a New York Habitat for Humanity thrift store that he believed to be an original by the expressionist Egon Schiele. The sketch now has been authenticated by Jane Kallir, owner of the Galerie St. Etienne, leading expert on Egon Schiele and the author of his catalogue raisonné. Ms. Kallir believes that Schiele sketched the work in 1918, the same year he died. The work appears to be a study for Schiele’s final lithograph, Girl, which also was completed in 1918. The sketch is now for sale and the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, announced plans to donate a portion of the sale proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

British Art Dealer Jailed by New York Court for Defrauding Clients

Timothy Sammons, a British art dealer who operated from offices in London, Zurich and New York, was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison by a New York court after pleading guilty to grand larceny, a scheme to defraud and other counts. It was alleged that Sammons misappropriated the proceeds from sales of art on behalf of his clients and used art that did not belong to him as collateral to obtain personal loans. District Attorney Cyrus Vance noted that besides suffering monetary losses, victims lost “valuable pieces of artwork that had been in their families for generations.” Sammons will reportedly serve his sentence in a New York state prison.

Baltimore Museum of Art Will Devote 2020 Exhibits to Women Artists to Address Diversity Gaps

The Baltimore Museum of Art is expanding its campaign to minimize diversity gaps by focusing on women in the coming year. The program, called 2020 Vision, begins in October 2019 by focusing on American Women Modernists such as Georgia O’Keefe. The program also will include a large-scale installation by Mickalene Thomas that will transform the museum’s East Lobby into a “living room.” Other highlights reportedly include “an exploration of Candice Breitz’s socio-political video works, a Joan Mitchell retrospective, an exhibition of beaded works by 19th-century Lakota women and African Art and the Matrilineage, a show documenting the role of maternal power in African art in the 19th through mid-20th centuries.”

NYC Allocates Record $212 Million to Department of Cultural Affairs

Exceeding last year’s record-setting allocation of $198.4 million with this year’s $212 million budget, the New York Department of Cultural Affairs is poised to expand on the success of its CreateNYC Action Plan, a program with the goal of having “a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable cultural sector with access to the arts for all citizens of New York.” This year the program expanded its tenets to include commitments to increase funding to underserved communities, emphasize inclusive practices, solidify its relationship with the city government, address the affordability crisis, and improve public school art education. Since 2017, New York City has distributed more than $1.1 billion in arts and culture financing, more than any other U.S. city.

EUROPE

Facebook Settles “Art Censorship” Claim with French School Teacher

Frédéric Durand, a French school teacher, had his Facebook account shut down after he posted an image of Gustave Courbet’s painting L’Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World) (1866). A Paris civil court ruled earlier this year that Facebook was wrong to shut down Durand’s account. However, as Durand was able to start a new Facebook account, the court found that he did not suffer any damages. Durand had announced plans to appeal. The parties have reportedly reached a resolution, pursuant to which they will each make a donation to a French street-art group, Le MUR (The Wall).

Munich Museums Restitute Nazi-Looted Art to Collectors’ Heirs

After extensive provenance research revealed that nine artworks held by the Bavarian State Painting Collections, the Bavarian National Museum and the State Graphics Collection were at one time seized by Nazi officials from the Jewish art collectors Julius and Semaya Franziska Davidsohn, the director of the Bavarian State Painting Collection returned the works to the Davidsohns’ heirs, whom the research team tracked down in London.

Portugal Seizes Art Collection to Pay Collector’s Debts

Portugal’s culture ministry’s spokesman announced that a court ruling authorized the confiscation of José Berardo’s modern and contemporary art collection to cover his debts to three Portuguese banks. The banks were previously prevented from seizing the collateral as the artworks, including works by Picasso, Bacon and Basquiat, were on public display in museums, including the Berardo Collection Museum in Lisbon.

No Works Damaged in Fire at Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art

An elevator control room fire broke out during renovations of the Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art (Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK)) in Germany. The museum’s director issued a statement confirming that no one was injured and no works were harmed, in part because most of the museum’s collection was in storage due to the renovations. It is not clear whether the fire will delay the museum’s previously scheduled reopening date of August 19, 2019.

Refurbished Industrial Space in Suburbs to House Five Parisian Galleries

As part of a decade-long vision to transform the Parisian suburbs, five Parisian art galleries are moving into a redesigned industrial space on the land designated for cultural use by the mayor of Paris. The space, dubbed Komunuma, also will accommodate emerging artist exhibitions as well as artists’ residences.

UK Government Considers Building Freeport Warehouses to Offset Post-Brexit Taxes

The UK’s new international trade secretary established a panel to investigate the establishment of 10 freeport zones throughout the UK to store art, jewelry and collectibles and to offset post-Brexit taxes. The Boris Johnson Administration touts the freeports as the “gateway to our future prosperity, creating thousands of jobs.” By contrast to the UK’s stance, the European Parliament is calling for freeports to be phased out across the European Union.

ASIA

Masterpieces from The Courtauld Gallery’s Collection to Be Exhibited in Japan During London Gallery Renovations

In the 1860s, many French Impressionists, including Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as their contemporaries, became inspired by Japanese woodblock prints and incorporated Japanese motifs, techniques and even scenes of Japanese life in their art. This year, the highlights of the Impressionist collection of The Courtauld Gallery (London) will travel to Japan for an exhibition opening in Tokyo on September 10, 2019. Among the masterpieces going on tour are Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882), Monet’s Antibes (1888), Van Gogh’s Peach Trees in Blossom (1889) and Gauguin’s Nevermore (1897). Many of the artworks will be traveling outside of Europe for the first time. The tour became possible due to The Courtauld Gallery undergoing major renovations. Meanwhile, the National Gallery (London) is also sending 60 artworks to Tokyo and Osaka this year, including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888). Perhaps the two exhibitions will inspire the new generation of artists, a kind of cultural exchange across the centuries.

© 2019 Wilson Elser

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Jana Farmer IP Lawyer Wilson Elser Law Firm
Partner

Jana Farmer represents client interests in connection with design professional matters and architects’ copyright; intellectual property matters involving copyright, sale and transfer of rights in artwork; protection of valuable creative assets; and general commercial disputes. In addition to handling cases before New York state courts, she defends clients in federal courts and in arbitrations and employs mediation to facilitate the cost-effective resolution of disputes. Jana also has experience conducting e-discovery and cross-border discovery in complex cases with large...

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Jacqueline Berelsen, Wilson Elser Law Firm, Orlando, Product Liability Attorney
Associate

Jacqueline Bertelsen focuses her practice on product liability, trucking and transportation, and complex tort and general casualty cases.

Before joining Wilson Elser, Jacqueline worked at a criminal defense and civil litigation firm in Orlando, Florida. While in law school, she was research assistant to Professor Robert Abrams and served as judicial law clerk to the Honorable Margaret H. Schreiber, Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida, and a Fellow of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Cooperative Science Center. She also clerked at the Environmental Appeals Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to that, Jacqueline was a paralegal for three years and served as firm administrator and legal assistant at a firm in Tallahassee, Florida.

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