Archive for the 'Art Posts' Category

07 10th, 2008

By Denise M. Alter, Esq.

Whether to Art Basel in Switzerland, the Frieze Faire in London, or the SHContemporary Fair in Shanghai, traveling to international art fairs can be an exciting way for art collectors to vacation.  The parties, the people, and the foreign travel coupled with fantastic fine art and photography showcased by hundreds of dealers, artists, and galleries from around the world can prove quite alluring.

But before buying that extraordinary painting, work on paper, photograph, or other “objét d’art,” collectors should be aware of the legal risks involved in buying art abroad. This article does not purport to identify all such risks, or discuss any one risk in detail.  But caveat emptor-“buyer beware”—takes on special significance when acquiring art on the international market, and collectors are advised to consult with a lawyer or other knowledgeable professional before opening their wallet.  If that painting you purchase turns out to be a fake, stolen, gets damaged in shipment, or does not arrive at all, recouping your losses from a foreign seller can prove costly if not impossible.

As one might imagine, the laws of foreign nations are even more varied than the laws of our many states. Acquisitions of art from foreign sellers require sophisticated knowledge about the transactional laws of the source country and the interplay of those laws with international conventions such as the 1980 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, and the Berne Convention, among others.  Letters of credit to protect fund transfers, conflict of law issues, the availability of dispute resolution mechanisms, requirements for enforceable warranties, shipping requirements, and risk of loss presumptions, represent just a few of the complex legal issues at play in commercial transactions in foreign countries.1

Many collectors now realize that the value of intellectual property rights to a work of art can often be more valuable than the work of art itself.  Owning the art object does not equate to owning the trademark and copyrights in the art unless those rights are specifically acquired. Without ownership of the copyrights in a work of art, or at least a license thereto, a collector may not photograph, reproduce, or otherwise create a derivative work from the object without infringing the artist’s (or other holder’s) copyrights.  Foreign copyright and trademark laws vary by jurisdiction, and may be impacted by international convention.  Successful acquisition of copyrights, either by assignment or license, requires sophisticated knowledge about international intellectual property laws.

Other legal rights attached to works of art that must be considered are “artist’s rights” or “moral rights.”  Derived from French law, the federal Visual Artists’ Rights Act, 17 U.S.C. §106A, and the California Art Preservation Act, (Civil Code §987 et seq.), vest artists in this country with continuing rights to prevent damage, destruction, or mutilation of their works or art even after sale, to claim or disclaim authorship in the work of art and, in California, royalty rights in subsequent sales of the art work under certain.  In foreign jurisdictions, these “artist’s rights” take on expanded protections that are country-specific.  Without obtaining a proper waiver of these rights, if legally possible under the law of the foreign jurisdiction, collectors are forever subject to suit by the artist should damage befall the work of art while in the collection.

Equally important are proper import/export clearances if the work has been created abroad or is acquired from a foreign seller.  Lawful export and import prevents seizure of the art.  As demonstrated by recent demands of Italy, Greece, and China to gain return of their cultural property from museums in the U.S. and abroad, foreign claims may lie dormant for decades before being asserted with the assistance of the U.S. government. By now, many countries have adopted laws that claim ownership of “cultural property” originating from within the country. Definitions of “cultural property” may broadly extend beyond antiquities to more modern works of art considered important to national culture.  Even experienced dealers can misunderstand the reach of these foreign cultural property laws.  To ensure a work of art is legally importable into the United States, buyers should obtain proper paperwork documenting lawful export of the work.  Certain specialty fine arts shippers also work with import/export brokers who can properly arrange for necessary documentation.

Enjoy the travel and the ‘scene’ at international art fairs.  Before buying art abroad, however, be certain you have an internationally enforceable purchase agreement and export documentation in place to guard against the risk of loss to that expensive work of art.

Note: The information contained in this article is not legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Readers should consult their own legal and professional advisers in connection with the purchase, sale, and collection of art.


1 While insurance may help minimize certain risks, it will prove worthless if the collector is not a named insured on a policy that covers all nail-to-nail risks for fine art, issued by a properly rated and reputable insurer with a proven track record of prompt payment to claimants.

07 10th, 2008

Art fairs like Basel, Scope, and Bridge pack up their fragile wares and trek from city to city, like gypsies of culture, to satisfy a new-found hunger for original art. What does this mean to experienced art collectors and to corporate collections? A long-time collector in London shares information about his own history of collecting and his feelings about what art fairs mean to individual and corporate collections.

By Lynn Mueting

The contemporary art world seems to have inspired a passion that has taken the art fair concept racing around the globe like wild fire.

For example; each fall one the hottest ticket in town is the Frieze Art Fair in London. Dealing strictly with emerging artists, Frieze pulled in an estimated £33 million pounds (approx. $68 million) in 2005. Sales were expected to climb by 35% in 2007, but Frieze promoters did not make their 2007 figures public. Such copious amounts of cash-combined with A-list celebrity attention-have led to a number of fringe art festivals-including the Bridge Art Fair-popping up in London that same weekend, creating virtual art frenzy.

One Collector’s Impression on the Exploding Art Market

I caught up with Colin Walsh, the Managing Director of Cards & Payments at Lloyds TSB Bank, who is also a friend and long-time passionate collector of contemporary art. I asked him what this phenomenon means to him, his company, and on contemporary art as investment.

Colin purchased his first major piece at the age of 24, following his first job out of college. “It was a piece by Bunny Klien, an abstract expressionist painting I bought in Soho NY. I still have it,” Colin said. Since then, Colin and his partner have collected enough works to fill two homes and still require storage. “To me, it’s an exciting way to live. I just feel so connected to my environment because each piece has it own history. Especially with the living artists, I know many of them personally, I know their passions and it brings me a quality of life.”

Colin typically collects works by emerging artists who have already been shown in museums or in highly respected galleries. “We never buy art with the intension of selling it, but it’s always nice to have an eye to the value of your collection.” His collection is eclectic, mostly abstract, with approximately 80% created by living artists. “You know, as you grow and mature the things that speak to you change, but they are all part of me.”

The Stamos that Almost Got Trashed

Colin owns a number of significant pieces, including a work by Theodoros Stamos, a post-modern impressionist who worked with Rothko. “Stamos didn’t have good relationships with galleries and so his work was often not catalogued like that of other important artists of his time. A gallery I work with a lot in San Francisco came across a number of his paintings and I was just taken in by the work. Of course, none of us realised their value at the time. The gallery brought them by my house one evening to have a look. When they were reloading the car, they forgot one piece was propped up against the trash bins-and it happened to be trash night! I decided I wanted it. Now he is quite well known and the purchase of that piece has such a funny story. I love it!”
“Art Festivals – It’s a Good Thing for Collectors”
Colin believes the flurry of activity in the global contemporary art market is a good thing for collectors because they can see more art, as well as gallerists, who get more exposure, and especially the artists themselves. “Even for people like myself who travel a lot, there is no way I can ever see as much art as I’d like to. The biggest problem I see with the Frieze Fair, however, is that buying art in the UK is so expensive at the moment simply because of the strength of the pound.”

How About Corporate Collectors?

In addition to his personal collection, Colin has been involved in his company’s sponsorship of art festivals. “My company (Lloyds TSB) does not collect contemporary art for investment per se, but, the bank did take a role in sponsoring the Bridge Art Festival (a fringe of the Frieze) in London and did so without giving away any money. Our support came by way of inviting customers to attend the fair with an incentive to purchase art.”
For the bank, value was added to the customer experience. For the festival, it facilitated an introduction to the Bridge Art Fair and encouraged participation in something that Lloyds’ customers might otherwise not have known about. “There is always this process of needing to connect artists with people interested in buying art and Lloyds was happy to facilitate that communication. So, it was a win/win situation.”
Of course, there are also risks to the companies that sponsor such events. For example, emerging artists don’t yet have established reputations, while Lloyds bank is a well-established financial institution. “We can never be absolutely certain that our corporate goals will mesh perfectly, but, we always make sure we have the ability to opt out. But overall, many of our customers were impressed by the quality of the work and the range of artist represented.”

Will the Art Festivals Phenomenon Last?

Perhaps this latest “craze” is simply the affluence of a generation eager to move beyond museum posters left over from college days. But there is no doubt that art festivals are bringing in new buyers eager to become serious collectors. As Colin says, “This can only be good for the development of the arts and the artists themselves.”
At the same time, this surge of interest can drive speculation. There is some concern that prices for emerging art is becoming inflated. However, with recent record-breaking modern art sales, Colin thinks “art as investment doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing.” The Art Festival phenomenon seems to show no signs of slowing either.

07 10th, 2008

Art Fairs: An Overview

Author: admin

It’s summer and it’s time to travel. For many galleries and collectors, that means art fairs across the country and around the world. For beginning and experienced collectors alike, these events are a great way to see a broad range of high-quality art in a single location. And it’s fun-the opening night previews, in particular, are typically gala events that offer a first opportunity to purchase artwork before the fair opens, as well as a party to remember.

Many of the most important fairs-the London Art Fair, TEFAF Maastricht in the Netherlands, Bridge Art Fair and Scope in New York, and Art Basel in Switzerland-already drew record crowds this year. But many great fairs are still to come. To stay informed and plan your travel, check out these sites: and

Along with the opportunities these fairs present, there are financial and legal risks associated with purchasing art in foreign countries. Art attorney Denise Alter describes some of these risks and what collectors can do to protect themselves in Buying Art Abroad: Buyer Beware.

The article Are Art Fairs Good for Collectors? gives a glimpse into one collector’s world, from his personal approach to collecting to helping his in helping to sponsor the Bridge Art Fair in London.

04 25th, 2007

By: Sylvia Lehnen

While the phenomenal prices brought in at auctions and the explosive growth of art fairs are grabbing headlines, corporate art collections typically generate little news, despite the fact that their holdings have come to rival those of museums and have become a market force. Corporate acquisitions of an artist’s works can define the artist’s reputation and market.

Some corporations want to downplay their collections—in addition to concerns about security, they view their art collections primarily as financial vehicles that offer the potential for appreciation and the certainty of tax write-offs, while lending prestige to the private offices of top managers. Other corporations see their collections as a way to benefit employees, to support emerging artists, and to serve larger community interests. Regardless of their focus, corporate sponsorship of art has become a major force shaping the art market in America.

Highlighting Corporate Collections seeks to highlight corporate collections that are accessible to employees and the public and the people behind the scenes who make them work. In this issue, Laura Matzer, the director of the Microsoft Art Collection, shares the challenges of moving from being an art educator at a small museum in Texas to managing one of the world’s largest collections. She also provides an overview of the collection and its goals and approaches to various business issues.

Links to other well-known corporate collections include:

USB Art Collection

Progressive Art Collection

Deutsche Bank Collection

Debate about the Role of Corporate Collections

Not everyone sees the growing influence of corporate collections as a positive trend. Author Chin-Tao Wu provides an account of the evolution of corporate sponsorship of the arts since the 1980’s and analyzes the complex relationship between government and corporations. In the process, she examines many assumptions; for example, that corporate sponsorship saves tax dollars. Instead of saving taxpayers money, she contends that favorable tax write-offs actually cost taxpayers more than the simple funding of organizations such as the NEA would have.

Links to books exploring the relationship of corporate collecting, government, and the role of art in society include:

Privatising Culture: Corporate Art Intervention since the 1980s, by Chin-Tao Wu

Art for Work: The New Renaissance in Corporate Collecting, by Marjory Jacobson

04 24th, 2007