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$6.75 Million Award for 5Pointz Aerosol Artists Affirmed on Appeal and Other Headlines

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by Jana Farmer and John Cahill on February 27, 2020

200228_5ptaerosoljpg-440x293UNITED STATES

$6.75 Million Award for 5Pointz Aerosol Artists Affirmed on Appeal
Two years ago, in one of the most important decisions applying the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) since its adoption, New York’s Eastern District awarded $6.75 million in statutory damages to 21 graffiti artists whose aerosol works were intentionally destroyed by the owner of the buildings on which they were painted.

This decision was covered in detail in our earlier article.

VARA was enacted to protect the moral rights of artists in their works of visual art as distinguished from the ownership rights in the works. The statute gives artists the right to sue to prevent the destruction of a work of “recognized stature,” a term VARA does not define. Additionally, an artist may seek money damages if their work is distorted, mutilated or otherwise modified to the prejudice of the artist’s honor or reputation.

On the appeal by the buildings’ owner, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision stating that temporary artworks such as graffiti, which are frequently painted over by other street artists, can nonetheless have “recognized stature” under VARA. In so holding, the Court of Appeals upheld the monetary award to the artists. The stunning sum is meant to be a deterrent to future VARA violations and a message to building owners to negotiate with artists whose works are incorporated into structures.

Art Exhibitor Sues European Insurers for Seized Paintings
Global Art Exhibitions Inc. claims that a group of European fine art insurers owes coverage for 12 paintings attributed to Amedeo Modigliani and Moïse Kisling that were seized by the Italian government under claims of forgery. The art exhibitor, which stands by the authenticity of the artworks, claims that the policies in question must cover artwork recovery costs.

Collector Sues Princeton University After an Art Sale Falls Through
New York City−based art collector Vincent Fay is suing Princeton University for failure to pay the second of two payments for the purchase of 17 artworks in a $1 million art sale. According to the complaint, the university raised questions as to the works’ provenance, authenticity and value, but their concerns were allegedly not “documented or supported by any named experts.”

Street Artists Worldwide Honor Kobe Bryant
In the wake of the passing of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter in a helicopter accident in January 2020, artists around the world are creating tribute murals honoring the NBA legend.

New York Conference Will Seek to Help Victims of Nazi-Era Crimes Recover Stolen Property
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced that an international conference, hosted by the Department of Financial Services’ Holocaust Claims Processing Office, will be held in May to assist in the process and promote an understanding of the recovery of stolen property as a result of Nazi-era crimes. The conference will include presentations and panel-led discussions between claimant representatives, lawyers, members of the art trade, professionals from cultural institutions, provenance researchers, historians and art historians.


Italy Returns to Germany a Renaissance Statue Sold Under Nazi Duress
The sculpture of Mary Magdalene by Andrea della Robbia, formerly part of the collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Italy, was returned to Germany after provenance research confirmed that it was formerly owned by a Jewish art dealer who was forced to sell it under duress by the Nazi regime. The statue was bought by Hermann Göring and after the Second World War was mistakenly sent to Italy.

New AML Regulations Cause Confusion at London Art Fair
As discussed in our previous blog post, the UK recently introduced new anti−money laundering compliance obligations for art market participants. At this year’s London Art Fair, dealers expressed confusion as to how the regulations are to be applied, criticizing the absence of clear guidelines. The trade, however, did not seem to have been impacted. It appears that a majority of the criticism of the new regulations stems from the middle-market galleries, which will feel the increased costs and administrative burden the most.

New Lawsuit Filed Against Heiress of Renown German Art-Collecting Family
An anonymous alleged owner of an Andy Warhol print, Queen Elizabeth II, filed a complaint in a Munich court against Angela Gulbenkian, claiming fraudulent art dealing based on an alleged failure to complete the art sale transaction. In 2018, a Hong Kong−based art adviser claimed to have paid $1.4 million to Ms. Gulbenkian for a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sculpture that was allegedly never delivered. Both criminal and civil charges are pending against the heiress in Germany and the UK.

French Officials Seize Bronzino in Connection with Old Masters Forgery Ring
The Saint Cosmas painting, attributed to the famed Italian Mannerist Agnolo di Cosimo, known as Bronzino, was recently seized by French customs officials as part of the investigations into the Old Master Forgery Ring. The seizure occurred while the painting was on loan from the U.S.-based Alana Collection Masterpieces of Italian Painting to the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris for an exhibition. This work is allegedly linked to French art dealer Guiliano Ruffini, who is under investigation for selling dozens of forged Old Masters’ paintings. The artwork is presently barred from export.


Valuables Seized from Fugitive Billionaire Hit Market in India
At the request of the government of India, auction house will host three auctions featuring artworks, luxury goods and cars of the fugitive billionaire Nirav Modi. Modi was charged for his alleged involvement in a $2 billion fraud scheme at India’s state-run bank. The auction will include artworks by famous artists such as Amrita Sher-Gil, M.F. Husain and V.S. Gaitonde.

India Seeks Return of a Bronze Statue from the Ashmolean Museum
The Indian government made a formal request for the return of a bronze idol of Saint Thirumangai Alvar made in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu in the 15th century, after an independent scholar uncovered questionable provenance of the statue. Archival research showed that the sculpture appeared to be the one depicted in a 1957 photograph of an idol in the temple of Sri Soundararaja Perumal in a village near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu. This sculpture was stolen in the early 1960s.


Coronavirus Shutters Art Basel, Museums; Sotheby’s Moves Hong Kong Art Auctions to New York
Sotheby’s auction house announced that it will move its major spring Hong Kong auctions to New York in light of the coronavirus epidemic. Earlier this year, Chinese museums and other public institutions have opted to close their doors in a desperate effort to stop the spread of the deadly disease. Art Basel Hong Kong fair, which heavily relies on international travelers, was cancelled as countries around the world have been imposing travel restrictions.

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