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Center for Art Law Case Updates and Legal/Art News



The following case selection first appeared in this week's Center for Art Law newsletter:

Simcor LLC v. Mahama, 2:15-cv-4539 (C.D. Cal. June 15, 2015) --After discovering unknown Ghanian artist Ibrahim Mahama, plaintiffs Stefan Simchowitz and Jonathan Ellis King helped to build the young artist a studio and reputation. Mahama then contracted to create works exclusively for Simchowitz and King to display and sell. According to the plaintiffs, Mahama breached this agreement by selling 20 similar works to an unnamed collector and by disclaiming authorship of the 294 signed, commissioned works, reportedly because he was dissatisfied with the quality of the finished products. The plaintiffs have sued to recover $4.45 million from Mahama, the estimated value of the 267 unsold works in their possession.

Building Industry Association - Bay Area v. Oakland, 3:2015cv03392 (N.D. Cal. July 23, 2015) -- A developers' industry group has filed suit against the City of Oakland, alleging that the City's Percentage for Art ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution. The ordinance was passed in February and requires that 1% of the budgets for non-residential construction projects and 0.5% of the budgets for residential projects be spent on art. Among other arguments, the plaintiffs claim that this amounts to unlawful compulsion of speech in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

Fontes v. Autocom Networks, Inc., C 15-02044 CRB (N.D. Cal. 2015) -- Dan Fontes' mural of Lake Merritt had been locally famous since it was painted on the side of an Oakland building in 1987. Fontes has filed suit against the building's current and former owners after the current tenant, a Nissan dealership, whitewashed the mural, which had already been damaged by graffiti. Fontes is seeking $400,000, arguing that the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) requires the building owner to give 90 days notice of its intent to remove an artist's work from its property.

Honolulu Art Museum v. Greene, Civil No. 15-1-1515-07 ECN (HI Cir. 1st, Aug. 28, 2015) -- The Honolulu Art Museum has filed suit against 80 year old art collector Joel A. Greene for $880,000, alleging that Greene failed to provide adequate provenance for five Southeast Asian works of art that he donated in exchange for quarterly payments of $80,000 for the duration of his life. Suspicions about the works, worth $1.275 million, first arose in 2011 after the Department of Homeland Security seized seven works from the museum that had originated from Asian art smuggler Subhash Kapoor.

Committee to Save Cooper Union v. Bd. of Trustees of the Cooper Union, No. 0155185-2014 (N.Y. Sup. 2015) -- Cooper Union has agreed to settle a 2014 lawsuit filed by a group of faculty and alumni to restore the school's 155 year old tuition-free model. The settlement, pending review by the New York Supreme Court, would create a "Free Education Committee" tasked with developing a plan to return to the no tuition system. The art, design and engineering college will also add alumni-elected members and two students to its Board of Trustees.

Other legal/art news:

PALMYRA NO MORE: Islamic State insurgents captured the ancient city of Palmyra in May, and despite statements that the historic site would not be damaged, proceeded to destroy ancient temples in August. According to the Director-General of UNESCO, the systematic destruction of the cultural heritage monuments "are war crimes and their perpetrators must be accountable for their actions. UNESCO stands by all Syrian people in their efforts to safeguard their heritage, a heritage for all humanity." The barbaric actions were preceded by the beheading of an 82-year old antiquities scholar, Khaled Assad, who supervised preservation of antiques in Palmyra for over 50 years."

HARD FEELINGS IN THE CLOUD: Anish Kapoor is feeling protective, read defensive, as his creations generate reaction from the viewers. In France, his installation "Dirty Corner" at Versailles was vandalized, to which Kapoor reportedly observed that the vandalism "represents a certain intolerance that is appearing in France about art." Following Kapoor's decision to leave the hateful graffiti on his work, Versailles municipal councilor, Fabien Bouglé, filed a complaint against the artist, stating that Kapoor's decision is breeding intolerance. Meanwhile, in China, a newly created public artwork, "Big Oil Bubble," by an unnamed artist, looks suspiciously like Kapoor's "Cloud Gate" in Chicago. Legal action may be forthcoming.

RESTITUTION CLAIM REJECTED: After reviewing a claim for a Renior painting held by the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, the U.K. Spoliation Advisory Panel has decided that the painting will not be restituted to the heirs of Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer. The rejection is based on a lack of evidence that supports the claim that the painting was part of a Nazi-forced sale in 1935.

FAMILY'S WARHOLS REPLACED WITH FAKES: A Los Angeles family recently discovered that their prized Warhol prints have been replaced with fakes. The prints were displayed in the family's movie editing studio for decades; the crime was discovered when the silkscreens began to sag in their frames and were taken for reframing.

DUE DILIGENCE? A French judge fined art dealer Yves Bouvier 27 million euros for his involvement in the sale a numerous stolen Picassos. Bouvier asserts that he was not aware the works he sold were stolen, and in fact performed due diligence checks on the works in question.


The Center for Art Law strives to create a coherent community for all those interested in law and the arts. Positioned as a centralized resource for art and cultural heritage law, it serves as a portal to connect artists and students, academics and legal practitioners, collectors and dealers, government officials and others in the field. In addition to the weekly newsletter (http://cardozo.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=78692bfa901c588ea1fe5e801&id=022731d685), the Center for Art Law subscribers receive updates about art and law-related topics through its popular art law blog (http://itsartlaw.com/blog/)and calendar of events (http://itsartlaw.com/events/). The Center for Art Law welcomes inquiries and announcements from firms, universities and student organizations about recent publications, pending cases, upcoming events, current research and job and externship opportunities. To contact the Center for Art Law, visit our website at: www.itsartlaw.com or write to itsartlaw@gmail.com.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 18, 2015 6:54 PM.

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