Center for Art Law

At the crossroads of visual arts and the law.

Case Law Corner – Archives

Below are our selected archives of art law cases, ranked by date of filing or opinion.

From 2019

One and J Gallery v. Christie's Inc. et al, No. 650005/2019 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cnty. filed Jan. 02, 2019). One and J Gallery’s motion for a temporary injunction pending arbitration to halt Christie’s sale of an unnamed Francis Bacon painting, worth at least $10 million, has been discontinued. Christie's acted as the exclusive agent of One and J Gallery, however, One and J Gallery alleged that Christie’s sought to sell the painting in a “commercially unreasonable manner in violation of the U.C.C.” At the time that One and J Gallery entered into this agreement with Christie’s, One and J Gallery received a loan from Christie’s in the amount of $4.9 million. The sale of the Bacon painting was going to pay down the loan. However, One and J Gallery alleged that Christie’s made no attempts to sell the work and later Christie’s sold an additional work provided by One and J Gallery for less than market value, in order to begin repayment of the loan. The litigation has since been discontinued.
De Csepel, et al. v. Republic of Hungary, et al., No. 17-1165 (U.S. Jan. 7, 2019). On January 7, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States denied the Herzog family’s petition for certiorari. The Herzogs are heirs of Baron Mor Lipot Herzog, a Jewish art collector, whose artwork was stolen during WWII. The heirs have been attempting to reclaim the works from Hungary to no avail. The writ proposed the Supreme Court examine questions of jurisdiction. 
Kush et al v. Grande et al., No. 2:2019cv00186 (D. Nev. filed Jan. 31, 2019). Artist Vladimir Kush is suing singer Arianna Grande for copyright infringement for scenes in her music video “God is a Woman.” The case centers around the representation of a woman dancing in the wick of a candle. Kush claims that Grande, her record label, and others involved in the music video, copied his expression of that concept.
The Art and Antique Dealers League of Am., Inc. et al v. Basil Seggos, No. 1:2018cv02504 (S.D.N.Y. filed Feb. 1, 2019). The Art and Antiques Dealers League of America brought an action against the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) claiming that the New York State Environmental Conservation Law § 11-0535-A is unconstitutional. The law forbids the selling and trading of ivory articles and the dealers claim that the state law is preempted by federal law which has a broader antiques exception. The court has dismissed the claim.
Patrick Hoelck v. Billionaire Boulevard, Inc. et al., No. 2:2019cv00939 (C.D. Cal. filed Feb. 7, 2019). Photographer Patrick Hoelck is suing a number of companies alleging that they reproduced T-shirts that contained images substantially similar to his portrait of rapper Ice Cube. Complaint available upon request.
Vismanos et al., v. Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim, No. 2:2019cv01115 (C.D. Cal. filed Feb. 13, 2019). Art dealer Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim is being sued for fraud after accepting payment for paintings which were never received. The plaintiffs, collectors Liza Vismanos and Randy Rosen purchased three paintings, including a Renoir, and claim Hoerle-Guggenheim has repaid a portion of the funds but has been evasive about the artwork and further payments.
U.S. v. Boone, 18-cr-634 (S.D.N.Y Feb. 14, 2019). Mary Boone, the New York-based art dealer has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for tax evasion. Supporters of Boone suggested house arrest. However, the court determined, in-line with the government’s sentencing memorandum, that Boone should serve time for her actions. Both of Boone’s galleries will be closing with their final exhibitions ending on April 27th.
U.S. v. Gimelson, No. 1:17-CR-00094-TWP-MJD (7th Cir., filed on Feb. 15, 2018). The US government filed an intent to sue Brian Gimelson for tax evasion after his involvement in the sale of a Caravaggio painting. Green Moss Partners, established by Gimelson, sold the painting for approximately $1.2 million and never paid the appropriate taxes. Gimelson pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to evade taxes, and subsequently filed an appeal before the 7th Circuit on February 15, 2019. 
Castillo v. G&M Realty L.P., No. 0:18-CV-00498 (2d. Cir. filed Feb. 22, 2018). In February 2018, the graffiti artists of 5Pointz were awarded statutory damages in the amount of $6.75 million after real estate developer Gerald Wolkoff whitewashed the 45 street art paintings before receiving permits to demolish the buildings on which they were painted just 10 months later. Wolkoff filed an appeal in the 2d Circuit soon after Judge Block's decision, on the assertion that the court mistakenly found the artworks to be of “recognized stature," claims that the artworks had “no economic value,” and requests that the case be reassigned to a new judge if remanded, claiming Judge Block’s “impartiality is in question.” Case calendaring has been scheduled for the week of August 26, 2019 to determine the trial date for the appeal.
State St. Glob. Advisors Tr. Co. v. Visbal, No. 650981 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. filed Feb. 25, 2019).The investment firm State Street Global made headlines two years ago when the firm commissioned artist Kristen Visbal to create the 'Fearless Girl' statue located in Bowling Green. After discovering that Visbal created replicas for display, State Street Global filed a trademark infringement action against the artist. The motions for a preliminary injunction and restraining order in the “Fearless Girl” lawsuit were both denied, on grounds of lack of jurisdiction by the New York Supreme Court. The company who had commissioned the "Fearless Girl" statue, originally placed in front of the "Raging Bull" on Wall Street, sued the artist for making and selling unauthorized copies of the sculpture. The case has since been transferred to the Southern District of New York.
Gowen v. Helly Nahmad Gallery, Inc., 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 01350 (1st Dep’t Feb. 26, 2019). In the suit seeking the return of “Seated Man with Cane" (1918), a Modigliani painting allegedly looted by the Nazi-occupied French government, the First Department determined that defendants' motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds was properly denied in 2018. Because the plaintiff and several defendants maintained residences in New York and the key documents had been translated for the court, the First Department ruled that the defendants failed to meet their heavy burden of dismissal on grounds of forum non conveniens.
Molis v. Sotheby’s, Inc., No. 1:19-cv-01987 (S.D.N.Y. March 1, 2019). Patrick Molis, a collector of modern art, is suing Sotheby’s for fraudulent inducement after he consigned a Picasso entitled “Nu Assis Dans Un Fauteuil" (1963) to a representative of the auction house. Molis alleges that he agreed to the consignment on the condition that it would be sold to a private collector. Sotheby’s sold the work to a public collector for under market value, without Molis’ knowledge. Molis is now claiming misrepresentation. Originally filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, the case was moved on March 1, 2019, to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Fourth Estate Pub. Benefit Corp., No. 17-571 (U.S. Mar. 4, 2019). The Supreme Court of the United States has officially spoken on whether an action for copyright infringement can be brought prior to registration being granted by the copyright office. The question emerged after petitioner, the Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation, ended its licensing agreement with respondent,, LLC. Fourth Estate brought an action for copyright infringement when continued to use licensed materials. However, Fourth Estate was still in the process of obtaining its copyright registration. The Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit can only be brought once the Copyright Office registers the copyright and not during the process of registration. However, a copyright owner can still recover for copyright infringement that occurred before and after the registration.
Metcalfe v. Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc. et al., No. 1:19-cv-02357 (S.D.N.Y. filed March 15, 2019). Dominic Sebastian Leon Metcalfe, an artist and designer based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, has filed a complaint against Ulta Salon for counterfeiting of one of his holographic artworks on the packaging of Ulta’s beauty products, alleging violations of copyright law. The complaint is available upon request.
Williams et al. v. The Nat’l Gallery, London, et al. No. 18-997 (U.S. Mar. 18, 2019). The three grandchildren of Greta Moll, the subject of a portrait by Matisse, have been litigating in the US for compensation from the National Gallery of London. Moll’s heirs claim that the painting was stolen, in violation of international law, and that they should be compensated for their lost property. The family filed a petition for certiorari after the Second Circuit ruled against them, finding that the National Gallery acquired the painting in good faith and not in violation of international law. Therefore, the Second Circuit found that the National Gallery was subject to presumptive immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The Supreme Court of the United States’ denial of certiorari essentially ends the claimants' cases before US courts. 
Art & Antique Dealers League of Am., Inc. v. Seggos, No. 1:18-CV-02504 (S.D.N.Y. filed Mar. 20, 2018). Last year, two trade associations of New York-based art and antiques dealers filed suit against Basil Seggos, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, seeking invalidation of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law, prohibiting the sale of antiques containing 20% or more of ivory. They claim that the ECL is preempted by federal law. After a procedural back-and-forth between the parties, the dealers’ third amended complaint has been permitted to proceed in court as of March 2019.
U.S. v. The Painting Formerly Entitled A Family Portrait And Currently Entitled An Amorous Couple Or Alternatively A Loving Glance By The Artist Pierre Louis Goudreaux, No. 1:2019-cv-02517 (S.D.N.Y filed Mar. 21, 2019). The United States government had begun a civil forfeiture action for a Rococo painting that was stolen seventy years ago by the Nazis as they fled Kiev. The painting by Pierre Louis Goudreaux, known now as "An Amorous Couple," had been missing from the Khanenko Museum since 1943, until it was put up for auction in 2013.
Silver v. Gagosian Gallery, Inc. et al, No. 652090/2018 (NY Sup. Ct., Mar. 14, 2019) and Tananbaum v. Gagosian Gallery, al, No. 651889/2018 (NY Sup. Ct., Mar. 22, 2019). Two collectors, Silver and Tananbaum, have brought separate actions against the Gagosian Gallery. The collectors purchased works by Jeff Koons from the gallery, however, they allege that the gallery misrepresented the status of the artworks and that the production of the works has been unreasonably slow. The Gagosian sought to have Silver’s complaint dismissed, however the motion to dismiss was denied
Estate of Margaret Kainer et al v. UBS AG et al., 2018-968 (1st Dep’t filed Mar. 27, 2018). The plaintiffs, heirs of Margaret Kainer, are seeking the restitution of artworks that were stolen by the Nazis and are now in the possession of the Defendants, UBS AG, UBS Global Asset Management, Inc., Norbert Stiftung f/k/a, and Edgar Kircher (“Foundations”). The estate alleges that these defendants conspired with co-defendant Christie's to deprive the estate of their right in these artworks by falsely claiming that these Foundations were legitimate heirs of Margaret Kainer, in order to create a marketable title.
Mercedes Benz USA LLC v. Daniel Bombardier, No. 2:19-cv-10951 (E.D. Mich. filed on March 29, 2019). Mercedes is seeking a declaratory judgment to validate their use of a street mural created by artist Daniel Bombardier, also known as DENIAL. The feud started over Instagram when the company posted a series of pictures featuring its G 500 Series truck in front of the Detroit mural. The street artist threatened Mercedes with a copyright lawsuit, to which they replied that they “respect artists and the arts” and that “it regularly partners with cultural institutions and supports art festivals to advance the arts.” Complaint available here.
U.S. v. Rohana, 2:18-cr-00100 (E.D. Pa. 2019). The case against shoe-salesman Michael Rohana ended on April 12, 2019, in a mistrial due to a jury split on acquittal. The case was brought after an incident that occurred in December of 2017, when Rohana attended an ugly-sweater party at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Apparently drunk and disoriented, Rohana entered a closed terracotta warrior exhibition and broke the thumb off of one of the statues, subsequently keeping the thumb in his desk drawer. Rohana was charged with two federal crimes: theft and concealment of a cultural heritage item. Rohana’s lawyer argued that the law used to prosecute his client was established for art heists and thieves, not drunken misdeeds. Order available upon request.
Portland Museum of Art v. Germain, No. CV- 17-299 (Me. Super. Ct. Cumberland County Ct., 2018). The Portland Museum of Art (PAM) in Maine is suing Anne Marie Germain, the caretaker of art collector and museum donor, Eleanor G. Potter. Until 2015, the museum was Potter’s primary beneficiary of $2 million. However, in 2015, Potter amended her will leaving the bulk of her estate to Germain. Potter subsequently passed away in March, at the age of 89. The museum has accused Germain of elder abuse and claims that she manipulated Potter into changing her will. Germain maintains that she was a friend of Potter and was without ill-intention when acting on her behalf.
Silver v. Gagosian Gallery, Inc., No. 652090/2018 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. filed Apr. 12, 2019). In April 2018, Hollywood Producer Joel Silver sued Gagosian alleging the gallery failed to deliver a Jeff Koons sculpture, Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels, which Silver purchased for $8 million in 2014. He sought the return of the $3.2 million he had paid to date, plus interest and fees. In June, the producer dropped his lawsuitafter it was revealed that billionaire art collector Ron Perelman - who had previously sued the gallery in 2014 over artwork transactions valued at $45 million - was secretly paying Silver’s legal fees. Gagosian and Silver reportedly reached a settlement in which Silver agreed to move forward with the purchase.
Allen v. Kilmer, No. 1:18-CV-00907-GBW-JFR (D.N.M. filed May 3, 2019). Last September, Texan artist Bale Creek Allen brought a copyright infringement suit  against Val Kilmer for the actor-turned-artist’s 22kt Tumbleweed sculpture. It is undenied that Allen had been creating and selling Tumbleweed sculptures in galleries in Santa Fe and Austin for several years prior, and according to the complaint, Kilmer spoke with Allen – under the pretense that he was interested in acquiring one of Allen’s Tumbleweed sculptures – inquiring about the process and inspiration for his creations. Kilmer then created his own nearly identical sculpture, which Allen is seeking to stop production, display or publishing. Kilmer's May 3, 2019 answer asserts that Allen’s works are uncopyrightable, lacking the requisite originality, and that Allen did not register his copyright until after Kilmer had created his sculptures, therefore limiting Allen's right to recovery. 
Greenway II, LLC v. Wildenstein & Co., No. 1:19-CV-04093 (S.D.N.Y. filed May 7, 2019). Greenway is a trust representing Mr. Wallace, a private collector, and has filed a suit against New York’s Wildenstein & Co. gallery for common law fraud based upon the sale of a Pierre Bonnard painting "Still Life with Basket of Fruit", which was recently discovered to be inauthentic. The artwork was acquired from the Trust's predecessor in 1985 for $275,000 and transferred to Greenway for estate planning purposes in 2017. In 2018, leading Bonnard expert Guy-Patrice Dauberville advised that the painting was inauthentic. The suit alleged that Wildenstein failed to conduct research on the authenticity of the painting and failed to disclose the work's absence from Bonnard's catalogue raisonnés. Wildenstein filed a Motion to Dismiss primarily based on (1) the plaintiff's lack of standing because the right to bring suit has not been expressly been assigned to Greenway, (2) the fact that that the Trust itself had access to the catalogue raisonné, and (3) that the trust failed to prove Wildenstein's intent to defraud. 
White v. Freedman, No. 1:13-CV-01193 (S.D.N.Y. May 8, 2019). On May 8, Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York permitted two collectors’ claims of fraud to proceed against the owners of the now-closed Knoedler gallery, Michael Hammer and his company, 831 Holdings. Both plaintiffs had purchased fake Abstract Expressionist paintings from the gallery in the early 2000s. Although Judge Gardephe dismissed direct claims against Hammer and 831, on the basis that they did not necessarily know the paintings were frauds, he did hold them liable for any fraud committed by gallery itself. The decision is based on the possibility that Hammer may have mixed his personal and business expenses, eliminating any limited liability protection he would have had as company owner.
The People of the State of N.Y. v. Sorokin, No. 02441/2018 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. May 9, 2019). Former New York art-world socialite Anna Delvey Sorokin was found guilty  on eight counts, including grand larceny in the first, second, and third degrees, and theft of services. She was sentenced this May to four to 12 years in prison and was ordered to pay $198,596 in restitution and $24,000 in fines. Delvey, as she is better known in the art world, claimed to be a German heiress Among and a lifelong art collector. She had elaborated plans to establish the “Anna Delvey Foundation,” a luxury art club on Park Avenue South in Manhattan, for which she tried to secure investors and a bank loan of upwards of $20 million. 
Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 3446 (May 20, 2019). In July 2018, pursuant to the Act of State Doctrine, the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision to let a pair of paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder, "Adam" and "Eve," remain in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, California. Von Saher petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to hear the case, but certiorari was denied on May 20, 2019.
Ciccone v. Gotta Have It! Collectibles, Inc., 2019 Slip Op. 04333 (N.Y. App. Div. June 4, 2019). Last year, Madonna filed for an injunction to prevent Gotta Have It! Collectibles from holding a sale of her personal belongings, which were consigned to the auction house by Madonna’s ex-art advisor, Darlene Lutz. While a temporary injunction was granted in July 2017, the Manhattan Supreme Court reversed in April 2018, lifting the injunction and dismissing the case after finding that Madonna’s claims were time-barred due to the passing of the three-year statute of limitations. On June 4th, the Appellate Division affirmed the decision. The sale of the contested items is scheduled to begin on July 17, 2019.
Shope v. Frida Kahlo Corporation, No. 1:19-cv-01614 (D. Colo. filed June 5, 2019). On May 27, a third controversy arose surrounding the Frida Kahlo Corporation’s (“FKC”) assertion of their trademark rights to the artist’s name and likeness. FKC submitted a “notice of intellectual property infringement” to online arts and crafts retailer Etsy, against the work of folk artist Nina Shope who creates dolls using the likeness and name of Kahlo. The artwork listings reported by FKC were removed by Etsy, though many more of Shope’s Frida Kahlo dolls remain available for purchase. In response, Shope filed suit in the District of Colorado against FKC on June 5th seeking a declaratory injunction of non-infringement. Shope maintains that use of Kahlo’s name and likeness for creation of dolls is not an infringing use. 
Lam v. Mamacha LLC et al, Index No. 653320/2019 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. filed June 6, 2019). On June 6th, Dallas-based artist Dan Lam sued New York gallery The Hole and Mamacha Cafe for allegedly failing to pay the artist for her artworks following a 2018 exhibition. Lam claims she has been paid only $6,000 out of a total of nearly $36,000 owed for twenty-one artworks. Eight of the artworks were sold, while the others were lost or damaged. The Hole claims that Mamacha is the only party in a fiscal relationship with Lam, but Lam maintains that her works were consigned with both parties and thus both are properly named as defendants in the suit. 
Lehmann Maupin LLC v. Yoo, 1:18-cv-11126-AJN (S.D.N.Y. June 10, 2019). Last fall, Lehmann Maupin Gallery filed suit against former employee Bona Yoo for allegedly stealing Trade Secrets. The gallery accused Yoo of taking confidential client information when she left to become a Sales Director at Lévy Gorvy. In response, Yoo countersued on the basis that the gallery’s suit was filed out of spite and they did not have exclusive rights to the data. On June 10th, 2019, the District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the case with prejudice. No comment has been made as to whether the parties reached an out-of-court settlement.  
Philipp v. Fed. Republic of Germany, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 18188 (D.C. Cir. filed June 18, 2019). Last year, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the heirs of the art dealers who sold the Guelph Treasure may pursue their claims against the Federal Republic of Germany and the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz in U.S. Federal Court. On June 18th, the court denied the defendants’ petition for rehearing en banc. The claims against Germany and the SPK were filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, on the basis that the forced sales were in violation of international law. This decision confirms last year’s ruling that claimants do not have to exhaust all remedies abroad before pursuing their claims against sovereign defendants in U.S. courts. 
Moi v. Chihuly Studio, Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103576 (W.D. Wash. June 20, 2019). In May 2017, Michael Moi brought suit against Dale Chihuly, claiming he co-authored certain artworks and was thus owed over $20 million dollars from the sales. On June 20th, Chihuly’s motion for summary judgment was granted, thereby dismissing all claims brought by Moi. The District Court for the Western District of Washington held that Moi could not prove joint authorship, independent copyrightable interest, nor did he have a claim under promissory estoppel, and, finally, Moi’s claims were time barred by the three-year statute of limitations for copyright claims. 
Accent Delight Int’l Ltd. v. Sotheby’s, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105864 (S.D.N.Y. June 25, 2019). In October 2018, Russian billionaire and art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev brought suit against Sotheby’s, alleging the auction house materially assisted art advisor Yves Bouvier in defrauding Rybolovlev of approximately $1 billion by overcharging the collector on thirty-eight works of art. Sotheby’s was involved in the sales of 14 of the artworks in question, for which Rybolovlev seeks $380 million in damages. Sotheby’s filed a motion to dismiss the New York lawsuit and to keep certain records sealed. On June 25th, the district court for the Southern District of New York largely denied the motion to dismiss and denied in part and granted in part the motion to seal, meaning this suit can proceed despite the fact that the parties also have ongoing litigations internationally. 
Zuckerman v. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 19057 (2d Cir. June 26, 2019). The Metropolitan Museum of Art has prevailed against the heirs of German Jewish businessman Paul Leffman in their claim to the painting The Actor by Pablo Picasso. Leffman sold the painting in 1938 for $12,000, in order to fund the family’s escape from fascist Italy to Switzerland after they had fled Nazi Germany the prior year. The painting was donated to the Met in 1952, but the family did not bring a claim to the painting until 2010. Previously, the District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the family failed to demonstrate the painting was sold under duress. On appeal, the Second Circuit again dismissed the case, this time on the basis that the plaintiff’s claim was time barred under the equitable defense of laches.
The Andy Warhol Foundation For The Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith et al, No.1:17-cv-02532 (S.D.N.Y. July 1, 2019). The District Court for the Southern District of Manhattan ruled on July 1st that Andy Warhol’s use of Lynn Goldsmith’s 1981 photograph of iconic pop singer Prince was fair use, based on a finding that Warhol’s series was “transformative.” The Andy Warhol Foundation’s motion for declaratory judgment was granted and Goldsmith’s countersuit was denied, concluding the litigation that began in 2017. Read our Case Review
Morgan Art Found. Ltd. v. McKenzie, No. 1:18-cv-04438-AT (S.D.N.Y. July 1, 2019). Heated legal action has surrounded the estate of Robert Indiana since the day before his death last May. As we reported, the suit was initiated by the Morgan Art Foundation, Indiana’s agent for the past twenty years, against American Image Art, its founder Michael McKenzie, and Indiana’s employee Jamie Thomas, alleging copyright and trademark infringement among other claims. American Image Art and McKenzie filed counterclaims, alleging the Morgan failed to fully pay Indiana royalties and that the Morgan fabricated unauthorized reproductions of his famous sculptures. On July 1st, 2019 the District Court for the Southern District of New York largely dismissed the counterclaims against the Morgan. Then, on July 2nd, attorneys for American Image Art and McKenzie filed to withdraw as counsel.

From 2018

Hearty v. The Bonfoey Company, 1:18-cv-00015 (N.D. Ohio Jan. 3, 2018) Plaintiffs, a married couple, have filed suit against the Bonfoey Gallery, the Bonfoey Company’s president, and an art dealer in Florida that Bonfoey sold the painting at issue to. Plaintiffs stored their painting, Shades of Evening by George Inness, at their 94-year-old mother’s home, after Defendant Bonfoey failed to sell the painting under a consignment agreement. Four years later, Defendant president approached the mother,without informing Plaintiffs, and had her sign a new consignment agreement and sent the painting to Defendant art dealer in Florida. Defendant art dealer allegedly had a buyer for the painting when Plaintiffs demanded the painting’s return. Consequently, Plaintiffs brought this suit alleging replevin, conversion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, breach of bailment, civil theft, and civil conspiracy. Plaintiffs seek to enjoin and restrain Defendants from transferring the painting to a third party, and request return of the painting, damages, attorney’s fees, and costs of this action. The Complaint is available here
Equinox Gallery Ltd. v. Dorfman, 360 F. Supp. 3d 560 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 3, 2018). The Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the Equinox Gallery in Vancouver, Canada, against Fred Dorfman, famous New York art dealer facing civil charges for selling stolen work by Jasper Johns. More information here.
Berkshire Museum Lawsuits,  (Mass. App. Ct. Jan. 16, 2018). After the Massachusetts Appeals Court granted a thirty-day injunction to halt the sale of forty works from the Berkshire Museum, appellate briefs have been filed on behalf of the heirs of Norman Rockwell and the Berkshire Museum trustees. Both filings contest the Superior Court’s decision to allow the sale of the Museum’s artworks to proceed and reiterate the arguments put before the trial court. As part of the ongoing saga, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has been investigating the Museums’ planned sale. The AGO recently filed a motion to extend the injunction and have further time to review the plan. On February 1, 2018, the Appeals Court granted the AGO’s motion and continued the injunction until February 5, 2018. 
Native Am. Church of N. Am. v. Transp. Sec’y Admin.,  5:17-cv-00108-OLG (W.D. Tex. Jan. 26, 2018). A settlement agreement (available here) was reached on January 26, 2018between the Native American Church of North America and the Department of Homeland Security, namely the Transportation Security Administration, who mishandled religious artifacts while the NACNA was traveling.
Cenedella v. Metro. Museum of Art, No. 1:2018-cv-01029 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2018). Artist Robert Cenedella filed a $100 million antitrust class action in Manhattan federal court against the giants of the New York art world, namely the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. On behalf of himself and “innumerable other deserving artists”, he claims that the museums violated antitrust laws by showing artists represented by five galleries merely because of close financial ties between the museums and the galleries. 
Zuckerman v. Metro. Museum of Art, 1:16-cv-07665 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2018). In another case the Met, the Southern District of New York ruled that the Museum does not have to give back a Picasso painting back to previous Jewish owners, who sold it in 1938, for a price below market value in an attempt to flee Italian Fascism, because the sale “occurred between private individuals, not at the command of the Fascist or Nazi governments.” 
Beale v. Wallace Gallery et al, No. 2:2018cv00871 (E.D.N.Y, Feb. 8, 2018). The cousin of Jackie Onassis Kennedy has filed a suit against the owners of a portrait of the First Lady in her teenage years, alleging that it was stolen from the East Hampton family estate in the course of a theft in the 1970s that was never reported. 
Cohen v. G&M Realty L.L.P., 1:13-cv-05612 (E.D.N.Y.  Feb. 12, 2018). In a hundred-page long decision, Judge Frederick Block of the Eastern District ruled in favor of the group of street artists who painted the “art mecca of the 5Pointz”, a highly decorated building in Long Island City. Artists sued Gerald Wolckoff, a developer who whitewashed the building without warning to make condos. This is a big win, worth $6.7 million, for street art and for moral rights. More information here, and stay tuned for an article on the blog! 
Viktor v. Lamar, No. 18-cv-1554 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 20, 2018). Visual artist Lina Iris Viktor has sued musical artists Kendrick Lamar and SZA, along with Top Dawg Entertainment for allegedly using Viktor's art to create a scene in the music video for “All the Stars,” the lead single for the Black Panther soundtrack. Viktor further alleges that she was approached by representatives two times for the use of her art in the movie and promotion for the movie. However, she turned them down both times. Viktor has alleged copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, and vicarious contributory infringement against the defendants and demands a declaration defendants violated the Copyright Act, a permanent injunction on defendant’s use of her works, and damages. The Complaint can be read here.
Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 138 S. Ct. 816 (2018). On February 21, 2018, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that victims of an Iran-sponsored terrorist bombing cannot seize Iran’s “Persepolis Collection” at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute to fulfill payment of the damages they were previously awarded. The Court held that a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act did not remove the requirement of commercial activity from the Act’s bar on seizure of a sovereign nation’s assets unless the assets are used in commercial activities within the United States. The full opinion is available here.
Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc., No. 15-35509 (9th Cir. Feb. 27, 2018). The Ninth Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff photojournalist’s copyright infringement suit against Defendant Nike. Plaintiff alleged that Nike’s “Jumpman” logo infringed on a photo he took of Michael Jordan mid-dunk with the ball raised above his head. The court held that, while Plaintiff held copyright over the photo and the way the pose was expressed in it, the pose itself was not subject to copyright protection. The court further held that the logo was not substantially similar to the photograph, and thus Nike had not copied enough of Plaintiff’s work to constitute an unlawful appropriation. The full decision can be read here
US v. Kyriacou, Canaye, et al., CR-18-0102 (E.D. N.Y., Filed Feb. 28, 2018; Superseding Indictment Submitted March 20, 2018). In March 2018, a press release by the Department of Justice revealed that six individuals and four corporate entities were indicted on charges of “conspiracy to commit securities fraud and money laundering conspiracy”. British art dealer Matthew Green is among the defendants. He is charged with conspiring to launder money using art: Green and others agreed to help an undercover agent clean “over $9 million dollars, which [he] represented to be the proceeds of securities fraud”, by selling him the Picasso painting “Personnages” and thus providing him with paperwork for the purchase. The operation was halted before the painting’s ownership was transferred. Original indictment available here.
Equinox Gallery Ltd. v. Dorfman, 360 F. Supp. 3d 560 (S.D.N.Y. 2018). The Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the Equinox Gallery in Vancouver, Canada, against Fred Dorfman, famous New York art dealer facing civil charges for selling stolen work by Jasper Johns. More information here
Reif, Fraenkel, and Vavra v. Nagy, No. 161799/2015 (N.Y. App. Div, April 5, 2018). The New York Superior Court awarded title of two Egon Schiele paintings to the heirs of Holocaust victim Franz Friedrich, in application of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act 2016, which expands federal statute of limitation for Nazi-era looted art to six years. The full decision can be found here.
Tananbaum v. Gagosian Gallery, Inc. et al., No. 651889/2018 (NY Sup. Ct., filed on April 19, 2018). In September 2013, a private collector signed a contract with Jeff Koons and the Gagosian Gallery, whereby they would deliver him three sculptures worth more than $13 million. Five years later, he filed a complaint (available here) against the two kings of the New York art scene, condemning a Ponzi-like fraudulent scheme
Silver v. Gagosian Gallery, Inc., No. 652090/2018 (Sup. Ct. NY filed on April 27, 2018). This is the second lawsuit filed in eight days against Defendant Gagosian Gallery (alone!) in connection with its prospective sale of multi-million dollar sculptures by artist Jeff Koons. According to the complaint, Plaintiff Silver, a film producer, paid $8 million for a sculpture "Balloon Venus" in 2014 and he is yet to see the yellow goddess emerge from Koons' studio. "Frustrated by the delay and skeptical when, if ever," the sculpture he wanted would be done, Silver asked for his money back and learned that he would be forfeiting $3.2 million if he were to stop making payments on the revised payment plan. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment and alleges breach of NY Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. Complaint available upon request. 
Madonna Ciccone v. Gotta Have It Collectibles, No. 156454/2017 (Sup. Ct. NY. April 23, 2018) In July 2017, Gotta Have Rock and Roll held an auction of Madonna’s personal items, orchestrated by her former assistant, including a breakup letter she wrote to American rapper Tupac Shakur (a/k/a 2Pac). The singer filed an emergency court order, alleging that the items should not have been in the possession of her assistant and that she never agreed to the sale. The court ruled in favor of the auction house, saying that Madonna had not made any demand for the return of her possessions and that she forfeited her rights. Decision available here
Shepard v. European Pressphoto Agency, 291 F. Supp. 3d 465 (S.D.N.Y. 2017, settled Ap. 2018). The plaintiffs, courtroom artists, illustrated many high-profile criminal trials. Their works were published without their consent by the defendants, an international news services and a stock photo agency.   Claiming copyright infringement, breach of licensing agreement and unfair competition, the court granted the motion to dismiss on two last claims, as they are preempted under the Copyrights Act 1976. The court denied to the motion on the copyright claim. The case was ultimately settled in April 2018. Full decision here.
Neumann v. Sotheby’s, Inc., No. 652170/2018 (Sup. Ct. NY, filed May 3, 2018). This dispute, now pending appeal, involves the 86 year-old paterfamilias of the Neumann family, who seeks an injunction against Sotheby’s from offering the painting "Flesh and Spirit" by Jean-Michel Basquiat for sale. Neumann alleged that per a 2015 agreement, which was confirmed a year later, Sotheby’s promised Neumann that they would seek his “approval on all matters relating to cataloging, placement, and exhibiting each and every work consigned”. Although pieces in the collection are “owned by a variety of persons and entities”, they are all considered part of the Neumann Family Collection, of which Hubert Neumann is the steward. However, in April 2018 Neumann learned that his daughter Belinda had consigned Basquiat’s “Flesh and Spirit” - part of the collection - to Sotheby’s for a sale in May, breaching the terms of his previous agreement with the auction house. Complaint available here
Shagalov v. Edelman, 6449N 655576/17 (N.Y. App. Div. May 3, 2018). The New York State Appellate Division affirmed a lower court order granting a preliminary injunction to enjoin defendants Asher Edelman et al. from "transporting, transferring, disposing, alienating, pledging, assigning, or otherwise encumbering or moving Keith Haring's 'Untitled (March 5, 1984)' and Frank Stella's 'Guifa E La Berretta Rossa' and 'La Scienza della Fiacca.'" The plaintiffs, represented by Barton, LLP, successfully demonstrated that they would be "irreparably harmed absent the requested preliminary injunction" and met their burden of "establishing a reasonable probability of success on the merits of their claim that defendants violated their UCC Article 9 rights." The decision is available here
Morgan Art Found. Ltd. v. McKenzie, 1:18-cv-04438-AT (S.D.N.Y. May 18, 2018). Robert Indiana, the American artist famous for his “LOVE” statues, is at the center of a recent lawsuit brought in mid-May. Morgan Art Foundation, the artist’s agent for the past twenty years, is accusing art publisher American Image Art, its founder Michael McKenzie, and Indiana’s employee Jamie Thomas of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, breach of contract, unfair competition, and other counts for exploiting the artist and selling forged works. Indiana himself is also implicated by the plaintiff in the copyright infringements, because he has “a financial interest in and the ability to supervise the infringing activity”of the other defendants, and had conveyed rights to many of his works to Morgan Art Foundation in two earlier agreements. The original complaint is available here.
Zuckerman v. Metro Museum of Art, No. 18-0634-cv (2nd Cir. filed June 1, 2018). This brief amicus curiae pertains to the subject of “Flight Art” in the case of Zuckerman v. the Metropolitan Museum of Art in which the court ruled in favor of the Museum’s rights to ownership and to display “The Actor” by Pablo Picasso. Paul Leffman, the former owner of the painting in question, was forced to sell the piece to the Nazis at an exceedingly low price in order to escape persecution during the war. This brief is intended to demonstrate to the court the historical nuances of “flight art” such as The Actor and better inform its members to make future decisions taking into consideration these nuances. This brief is supported by a number of foundations experts in the field of Nazi-looted art, including The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), Lucille A. Roussin, and Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat. The brief can be found here. ** The state is petitioning for the lower court to rehear the case. The met is claiming to have the petition rejected because the sale was not made under duress. 
Close. v. Frieze Sotheby's, Inc., 1:18-cv-05134 (S.D.N.Y. June 8, 2018). A recent decision was made by the U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit in the case brought by artist Chuck Close against Sotheby’s Inc. concerning the California Resale Royalties Act (‘CRRA’). Under the CRRA, artists were entitled to 5% of the proceeds of any resale of their work. The plaintiff in this case was seeking resale royalties covered under the CRRA since the statue’s effective date of January 1st, 1977. The court ruled in two part; dismissing the plaintiff’s claims covered by the 1976 Copyright Act (i.e. those that come after the effective date of this act, January 1st 1978) and reversing the dismissal of claims covered by the 1909 Copyright Act concerning sales that occurred between the CRRA’s effective date of January 1, 1977, and the 1976 Act’s effective date of January 1, 1978. This decision will effectively put an end to the last remaining remnants of droit de suite in American legal code concerning artists rights to profits made from the sale and resale of their works. 
Barnet v. Greek Ministry of Culture, No. 1:18-cv-04963 (S.D.N.Y. June 5, 2018). In its first legal action against a country, Sotheby’s is suing Greece in the Southern District of New York for declaratory judgment to determine who has the legal rights to an eighth century BC statuette of a bronze horse. The action comes after the Greek culture ministry sent a letter requesting the piece be removed from an auction, asserting that the statuette did not leave Greece legally. The defendants moved to dismiss the case. 
Neumann-Donnelly v. Neumann (In re Estate of Neumann), No. 652857/2018 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cnty. filed June 7, 2018). While the Center for Art Law’s May newsletter and the case review in the 7 June blog post have covered Hubert Neumann’s unsuccessful attempt to halt the sale of Basquiat’s “Flesh and Spirit” in Neumann v. Sotheby’s, Inc., No. 652170/18 (N.Y. App. Div. May 16, 2018), the family drama is not yet over. In June, Neumann’s daughter Belinda sued her father, alleging that “he had intentionally depressed the price of a major Basquiat sold at auction last month with a failed and frivolous lawsuit to stop the sale.” Ironically, one of Hubert Neumann’s claims against Sotheby’s was that the auction house had “set far too low an estimate of the value of the work.” Sotheby's sold "Flesh and Spirit" for $30.7M. A copy of the Belinda’s complaint is available here.
Shane Campbell Gallery, Inc. v. Frieze Events, Inc., 1:18-cv-05134 (S.D.N.Y. June 8, 2018). Nearly a month after the art fair, the Frieze organizers sent an apology to the nearly 200 exhibitors apologizing for the extreme heat in the bespoke tent and offering a 10% refund. A day later, Shane Campbell Gallery, located in Chicago, sued in the Southern District of New York for breach of contract, seeking a full refund and alleging $15 million in damages. The complaint was filed by Lewis Saul of Lewis Saul & Associates, P.C. The gallery hopes to achieve class action status in the lawsuit, stating that “Frieze’s partial refund offer [w]as ‘wholly inadequate,’ adding: ‘We intend to litigate this to the fullest extent possible to give galleries what they deserve.’” Judge Richard J. Sullivan was appointed to preside over the case. The court docket is available here.
Brammer v. Violent Hues Prods., LLC, No. 1-17-cv-01009, 2018 WL 2921089  (E.D. Va. June 11, 2018). In a major blow to photographers, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that a commercial website’s re-use of another’s photograph found on the internet is fair use and is not subject to copyright infringement. The case revolves around plaintiff/photographer Russell Brammer’s time-lapse photograph of the Adams-Morgan area of Washington, D.C., which was copyrighted by plaintiff. Defendant Violent Hues found the photo online and used it in an informational section of a website created for its Northern Virginia Film Festival. The judge granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a decision that is sure to be appealed. The case can be found here
Cohen v. G&M Realty L.P., No.13-CV-05612(FB)(RLM) (E.D.N.Y. June 13, 2018). A decision was reached by Judge Frederic Block that struck down real-estate developer Gerald Wolkoff’s motion to “vacate the judgement or grant a new trial” regarding the February decision that saw him paying $6.75 million to the graffiti artists of 5Pointz. Wolkoff was found guilty of the willfully destroying 45 works of visual art created by the artists of 5Pointz by painting over them in 2013. Accordingly, Wolkoff came into possession of 5Pointz’ complex in Long Island City and whitewashed the works street art before he officially received a permit 10 months later to demolish the building to begin construction of condos. Judge Block has now struck down Wolkoff’s post-trial motion, claiming that: “if not for Wolkoff's insolence, [the maximum statutory] damages would not have been assessed" since "[i]f he did not destroy 5Pointz until he received his permits and demolished it 10 months later, the Court would not have found that he had acted willfully," and "a modest amount of statutory damages would probably have been more in order." The decision by Block will undoubtedly have future repercussions on relations between the real-estate and art worlds. The decision is available here.
State of New York v. Trump,  No. 451130/2018 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cnty. filed June 14, 2018). After a nearly two-year investigation, Barbara Underwood, the Attorney General for the State of New York, filed a complaint against Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric F. Trump, and The Donald J. Trump Foundation alleging violations of state and federal laws governing New York State charities. The complaint accuses the charity and the Trump family of "improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law." The Attorney General is seeking dissolution of the Foundation, enjoinder to prevent the board members from future service as director of any future New York not-for-profit organizations, restitution, and penalties, as well as cooperation from the Foundation in directing its assets to other charitable organizations. The complaint is available here.
Khochinsky v. Republic of Poland,  No. 1:18-cv-01532 (D.D.C. filed June 27, 2018). Mr. Alexander Khochinsky, the son of a Polish Jew who was forced to flee her land in Przemysl, Poland before the Nazi invasion of the country, has filed a complaint in the U.S. Supreme Court against the Republic of Poland for their efforts to extradite him in 2015 on criminal charges in Poland. In 2010, Khockinsky became aware of the existence of a painting, Girl with Dove by Antoine Pesne, that was in his family’s possession before the Nazi invasion. The painting appeared on display in a museum in Poznan Poland and Khochinsky began efforts to seek restitution of the painting. In 2014, the Polish government filed criminal charges against Khochinsky claiming that Khochinsky came into possession of the painting “despite being aware of the fact that the painting originated from a prohibited act—looting of property in 1943 by the then authorities of the German Third Reich.” Khochinsky was arrested in 2015 in the United States for a brief period of time but was soon cleared of charges by the Supreme Court. According to attorney Matthew O’Donnell, this case is no doubt the product of the current Polish government’s complicated relationship with the history and memory of the Holocaust (Shoah). The complaint can be found here.  
Davidson v. United States, No. 13-942C, 2018 U.S. Claims Lexis 801 (Fed. Cl. June 29, 2018).  In a case involving the USPS putting a Getty Image photo of artist Robert S. Davidson’s Las Vegas version of the Statue of Liberty on approximately 3.5 billion stamps, Judge Bruggink of the Court of Federal Claims ruled that plaintiff’s work was “sufficiently original to be afforded copyright protection” and the USPS’s use of the image was not authorized under federal copyright law. The court ordered the Postal Service to pay the artist $3.5 million, plus interest. The brief can be found here
Matter of Salz, 2018 NY Slip Op 04965 (App. Div. July 5, 2018). New York's First Department Appellate Division affirmed the Surrogate's court decision to dismiss the petition for discovery by a newly-appointed administrator of the Sam Salz Estate on the grounds that fraud which might have been conducted in settling the affairs of the renowned private art dealer should have been discovered sometime after 1999. It was the second ruling from the court in connection with the Salz estate, see Matter of Salz, 80 A.D.2d 769, 436 N.Y.S.2d 713 (App. Div. 1981).
Nothing to report.
Adrian Falkner v. General Motors Company et al., 2:18-cv-00549 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 17, 2018). A California federal judge allowed the street artist Adrian Falkner to move forward in his copyright lawsuit against General Motors over an advertisement that incorporated his work. GM failed to convince the judge on summary judgment that the mural was inseparable from the parking garage. This sets aside the classification of the mural as an architectural work, which copyright law permits pictorial representations. Nonetheless, the court denied Falker's punitive claim for punitive damages. Order available upon request. 
US v. Chowaiki, 1:18-cv-00323 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 26, 2018). Manhattan art dealer Erza Chowaiki plead guilty to charges of fraud, and was sentenced to spend 18 months in prison. This is the end of a procedure following his bankruptcy and three years of supervised release for defrauding art dealers and collectors of millions of dollars. He was also ordered to give up his interest in more than 20 works of art involved in the fraud, including pieces by Picasso and Alexander Calder. 
Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, 897 F.3d 1141 (9th Cir. 2018). Lucas Craner the Elder's "Adam and Eve" painting was the subject of a long battle between the family of the original owners and the Norton Simon Museum in California. The Renaissance painting was forcibly sold by Jacques Goudstikker, a Jewish art dealer in the Netherlands during WWII, but the Dutch court denied the heirs' claims based on their failure with the statute of limitations for Nazi-era looted art restoration. The Ninth Circuit court ruled in favor of the museum, to avoid overruling the Dutch decision. Full text of the decision here.  
Williams v. Nat'l Gallery, No. 17-3253-cv, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25519 (2d Cir. 2018). The New York Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the restitution of a Matisse painting, entitled “Portrait of Greta Moll”, who was one of the painter’s muses. The painting was in the possession of the  National Gallery in London and Greta’s heirs sought to have the piece back, claiming it was stolen from her home in 1947. The Court denied the claim on grounds of lack of jurisdiction because the alleged theft would have occurred two years after the end of WWII. More information here.  
Tobin v. Rector, Church-Wardens, & Vestrymen of Trinity Church, No. 17-4010-cv, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 23761 (2d Cir. 2018). The Second Circuit denied VARA claims to Steven Tobin, the artist behind a 9/11 memorial at the Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. The claimant sought relief for the removal of his “Trinity Root” sculpture from the church site to a Connecticut seminary, which he claims violated his moral rights. However, the court held that he had signed a contract with Trinity, where he waived any such right. Full decision here
Accent Delight International Ltd. et al v. Sotheby's et al, 1:18-cv-09011-JMF (Oct. 2, 2018). In another international and voluminous case, now against Sotheby's, the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev claims that Swiss businessman and art dealer Yves Bouvier defrauded him in connection with the purchase of a world-class art collection, to the tune of approximately one billion dollars. The Complaint alleges that Sotheby's aided and abetted the fraud and is available upon request. 
Meaders v. Helwaser et al., No. 1:18-cv-05039 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 8, 2018). This on-going case is awaiting response from the court on whether a standing stabile by Alexander Calder was lawfully sold to Helwaser Gallery in 2016. A relative of Phyliss P. Meaders was given the Calder as a gift and she argues that her partial ownership of the work entitles her to damages when it was sold by her bother Paul Mead III without her knowledge. Complaint and answer available upon request.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Gregory Michael Priore, No. CP-02-CR-0012634-2018, (Pa. Commw. Ct. filed Oct. 15, 2018), and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. John Ezra Schulman, No. CP-02-CR-0012635-2018, (Pa. Commw. Ct. filed Oct. 15, 2018). Recently, a Geneva Bible, also called a “Breeches Bible,” dating back to 1615, was discovered at the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum in the Netherlands. The Bible was among 400 items allegedly stolen  by Gregory Priore, an archivist at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburg. Dr. Jeremy Bangs, the Dutch museum’s director, acquired the Bible from dealer John Schulman in 2015, in preparation for an upcoming exhibition. Bangs was contacted by investigators asking for the Bible’s return, after which he contacted the Dutch police, who worked with the American Embassy and the F.B.I. Art Crime Team to transport the Bible back to the U.S. Both Priore and Schulman are being prosecuted
Kapoor v. National Rifle Association of America, No. 1:18-cv-01320 (E.D. Va. filed Oct. 23, 2018). London-based sculptor Anish Kapoor reached a settlement with the NRA in a copyright lawsuit for including his famous "Cloud Gate" (2004), a/k/a the Chicago "Bean" in a video attacking the media. The case, originally filed in Illinois, had been transferred for lack of personal jurisdiction, because the artist had no link to Illinois other than the existence of the sculpture, and the NRA is headquartered in Virginia. 
Viktor v. Top Dawg Entertainment LLC, No. 1:18-cv-01554 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 24, 2018). A New York federal judge refused to give hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar a partial win against a visual artist’s claims that the musician ripped off her artwork for the soundtrack of the movie “Black Panther”. The case will move forward to discovery. Full opinion here.
Alexander v. Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. et al., No. 3:18-cv-00966 (S.D.Ill. Oct. 24, 2018). The defendant, a video-game company, moved to dismiss the case brought by a tattoo artist against them, where the artist complains that her work, a tribal tattoo placed on the skin of WWE wrestler Randy Orton, was illegally reproduced in the video-game. This is not the first suit concerning athletes’ tattoo reproduced in video-games [find the case of LeBron]. Complaint available here.
Artemus USA LLC v. Paul Kasmin Gallery, Inc., No. 156295/2018 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.). The Paul Kasmin Gallery is currently being sued by Artemus, a company that allows collectors, art dealers and other professionals to leverage and monetize artworks through sale-leaseback arrangements and art-secured loans. They allege that the gallery backdated and falsified invoice in striking a 2016 deal to purchase the piece. Amended complaint available upon request.
Sotheby's v. de Saint Donat-Pourrieres, No. 1:17-cv-00326 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 6, 2018). Federal NY judge ordered the seller of a painting of Saint Jerome that had been attributed to Parmigianino to refund Sotheby’s after an expert report “conclusively” found that the painting was a “modern forgery.” Decision is available upon request. 
Bruce Berg v. Kingdom of The Netherlands et al., No. 2:18-cv-3123 (D.S.C. filed Nov. 11, 2018). In the wake of restitution cases brought against European museums, Bruce Berg, the heir of the Katz brothers who were Dutch partners and collectors, filed a federal suit against the Dutch government to recover paintings allegedly sold or traded under duress to representatives of the Nazi regime between mid-1940 and 1942, during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Complaint available upon request. 
DeLorean v. Delorean Motor Co. (TEXAS), No. 2:18-cv-08212 (D.N.J. 2018). Federal judge rejects John DeLorean Estate’s claim for “Back to the Future” royalties, as it found that the estate for the automobile executive signed over the rights to the proceeds of the contract with Universal when it settled an earlier lawsuit. Full opinion here.
United Federation of Churches LLC v. Netflix, Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., No. 1:18-cv-10372 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 28, 2018). Netflix and Warner Bros. negotiated the settlement of the copyright lawsuit brought by the Satanic Temple for the alleged misuse of its androgynous goat-headed deity statue in the series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina." The Temple sought $50 million in damages, but the financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Complaint available here
Lehmann Maupin v. Yoo, No. 1:18-cv-11126 (S.D.N.Y. filed Nov. 29, 2018). Lehmann Maupin Gallery filed suit against their former director Bona Yoo, who jumped ship to join Lévy Gorvy after giving her employer one day’s notice. The complaint seeks to “prevent Yoo from gaining an unfair competitive advantage and recover damages it says it incurred when Yoo corrupted or deleted confidential information.” Bona Yoo has filed a response, where she claims her former employers filed suit out of spite.
Otto v. Hearst Communications, Inc., No. 1:17-cv-04712 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 10, 2018). A case over a photo misused by several media sources to headline stories about US President Donald Trump highlights how Copyright law extends to amateur photographers, such as Jonathan Otto in this case. The Southern District allowed Otto to claim originality in his work, and found that’s use of the 2017 photo of Trump at a private wedding in an article about him crashing the wedding was not fair use. Order available upon request. 
His All Holiness, Bartholomew I, The Archbishop of Constantinople, Newrome, and Ecumenical Patriarch et al., v. Princeton University, No. 3:18-cv-17195 (D.N.J. filed on Dec. 13, 2018). Princeton University’s collection includes Byzantine Era Manuscripts that church leaders argued were stolen from a monastery in Greece during World War I. Evidence put forth by the church leaders includes a Princeton published book stating that the manuscripts had been taken by Bulgarian guerrilla forces in 1917, while Princeton remains confident in their provenance research as evidence that the manuscripts were not looted. Complaint available upon request. 
Cenedella v. Metropolitan Museum of Art et al., No. 1:18-cv-01029 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 19, 2018). Artist Robert Cenedella’s suit against five major New York museums was dismissed for insufficient evidence. He was claiming that the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the New Museum were conspiring to exclude him and other deserving artists from their collections and exhibition programs, for not being represented by major galleries. Order available upon request. 
U.S. v. One Painting Entitled “Secret Departure of Ivan the Terrible Before the Oprichina”, No. 1:18-cv-03015 (D.D.C. filed Dec. 20, 2018). The U.S. Attorney filed a notice of forfeiture of an oil painting entitled “Secret Departure of Ivan the Terrible Before the Oprichina” by Russian artist Mikhail N. Panin. The piece hung on the walls of the Connecticut home of Holocaust survivor Gabby Tracy; it was sent for auction in 2017 before research revealed that it had been looted from the Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum in Ukraine during WWII. The government seized the painting right before the auction, which was not contested by the Tracys. The Notice functions as a way to make sure no one else claims ownership before the FBI gives the painting back to Ukraine. Complaint available here
Schmitt v. Artforum Int’l Magazine, Inc., 2018 Slip Op 33345(U) (N.Y. Sup. Dec. 20, 2018). The New York Supreme Court has dismissed Amanda Schmitt’s retaliation claim  against her former employer and publisher of Artforum Magazine, Knight Landesman. Schmitt claimed that Landesman had harassed her and other women while working at Artforum. However, the statute of limitations on workplace sexual misconduct had expired. Therefore, Schmitt proceeded under a retaliation claim. Judge Nervo dismissed the case finding that the five-year gap between Schmitt’s employment at Artforum to the confrontation in question had removed the requisite nexus to sustain her claim.
Close v. Sotheby's, No. 16-56234 (9th Cir. 2018). The panel of 9th Circuit judges held that claims under the California Resale Royalty Act (CRRA) were preempted by the Federal Copyrights Act 1976. Interestingly, the panel awarded Defendants attorney's fees under the CRRA on December 3rd; despite holding that the Act was expressly preempted. Read our case review here; Order available here.

Last updated: July 25, 2019.

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