Skip to content

UK Introduces Money Laundering Regulations to the Art Market and Other Headlines







by Jana Farmer on January 24, 2020


UK Adopts Anti−Money Laundering Regulations for Art Dealers and Auction Houses
This January, the UK ratified new legislation that introduced, largely without modification, the EU’s Fifth Money Laundering Directive, which imposes new compliance obligations on art market participants.

Art dealers and auction houses, among others, will now have to register with the tax authorities and make sure that client due diligence is conducted on all new customers before entering into a transaction worth more than 10,000 euros, or about $11,100. This includes the requirement to establish the identity of the “ultimate beneficial owner” before entering into a transaction. As the art market traditionally prefers confidentiality and anonymity, many of the new regulations go against the grain. While the precise contours of the new regulations will likely be subject to much debate in the coming months, critics point out that the regulations place a disproportionate burden on the middle-market and small business. Notably, as we previously reported, the United States is considering similar legislation to extend the requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act to art market participants, and the proposed legislation appears to have bipartisan support.

The rest of our art law news summaries are separated by geographic region for your browsing convenience.


SCOTUS Pauses the Guelph Treasure Appeal to Let U.S. Government Have Its Say
The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz or SPK), which operates Berlin’s state museums, is seeking review by the United States Supreme Court of the issue of U.S. courts’ jurisdiction to hear the case of the 1935 sale of the famed Guelph Treasure by Jewish art dealers to the Prussian government. The Guelph Treasure is a collection of 82 pieces of medieval ecclesiastical art originally housed at Brunswick Cathedral in Braunschweig, Germany. The objects are presently dispersed between private and museum collections, including the Bode Museum in Berlin. In 2015, the heirs of the Jewish dealers filed a lawsuit against the German government in the United States alleging that the 1935 sale occurred under duress. SPK unsuccessfully moved to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds and their appeal was rejected in June 2019, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the petition to rehear en banc. The U.S. Supreme Court has delayed its decision for the next several months to allow the U.S. government to add its views.

J. Paul Getty Museum Succeeds in Securing an Export License for a Major 18th Century Painting
Two Boys with a Bladder, a painting by the 18th century artist Joseph Wright of Derby, who is considered one of the most important artists of the British Enlightenment, will go to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles despite the UK government’s efforts to keep the work in the country. The Getty Museum purchased the work at the TEFAF fair in Maastricht, Netherlands, from a London-based gallery in March 2019. However, for the painting to leave the UK, an export license was required. This past October, the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport placed an export bar on this painting in the hopes of finding a UK buyer. No such buyer was found, however, allowing the artwork to now leave the UK.

Artworks Created in 1924 Are Now in the Public Domain
A number of celebrated paintings, sculptures, films and works of literature have entered the public domain as of January 1, 2020, including George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Flower Abstraction from the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Edward Hopper’s New York Pavements at Virginia’s Chrysler Museum. These works may now be freely reproduced, and derivative works may be created.


Paris Musées Releases Thousands of High-Resolution Reproductions to the Public Domain
Paris Musées, a public entity that oversees the 14 municipal museums of Paris, released more than 100,000 high-resolution images to the public domain under CCØ license (Creative Commons Zero). Art lovers may now download high-quality images of the works by painters such as Courbet, Delacroix, Rembrandt and van Dyck or photographers such as Atget, Blanchard, Marville and Carjat. The images of the artworks subjected to copyright remain in low definition to illustrate the files on the collection’s website. Following the lead of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Paris Musées is the first French institution to offer a considerable number of reproductions in high definition.

Two Men Confess to Stealing the Recently Recovered Klimt Painting
A Gustav Klimt painting was recently uncovered by gardeners inside an external wall of the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery in Piacenza, Italy. This is the very same gallery from which the painting was stolen 24 years ago. Two men wrote a letter to a local newspaper in which they confessed to stealing the painting, claiming that they had returned it as a “gift to the city.” Their confession was timed to come after the expiration of the statute of limitations on the crime.

Five Old Master Works Stolen from Friedenstein Palace Are Returned
The December 1979 theft of five Old Master paintings from the Friedenstein Palace in Gotha, Thuringia, Germany, was Germany’s equivalent to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist, except with a happy ending when the works were returned with no ransom paid. The paintings, which suffered through a 40-year adventure, include a portrait by Frans Hals, a painting by Hans Holbein the Elder and a landscape from the workshop of Jan Brueghel the Elder, all dating from the mid-16th century to the 17th century. The details of the heist, however, remain a mystery.

Picasso Painting’s Attacker Will Fight Criminal Charges
Shakeel Ryan Massey, a 20-year-old northwest London resident, was apprehended for allegedly attacking and ripping Picasso’s celebrated portrait titled Bust of a Woman, which depicts Picasso’s famed muse, Dora Maar. The incident occurred at Tate Modern in London. Massey announced his intent to fight criminal charges levied against him.


Former Bridgestone Museum of Art Reopened under a New Name
After a three-year renovation, the Bridgestone Museum of Art in the Kyōbashi district of Tokyo, which houses one of Asia’s finest collections of French Impressionism, reopened under a new name, the Artizon Museum, on January 18, 2020.

Archeologists Uncover 2,500-Year-Old Tomb of Warrior Women in Russia
An expedition led by the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Scientists discovered a 2,500-year-old tomb in Southern Russia containing the remains of four women warriors believed to have been members of the Scythian tribes. The Scythian female warriors are believed to be the inspiration for the myths of the Amazons.

Recent Posts