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April 2020

Labor Law. Many in the arts industry are facing layoffs and furloughs, including employees at Sotheby’sMass MoCA, the MFA, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Opera. Workers at the Met Museum of Art negotiated being paid through May 2, 2020.

Nonprofit Law. While arts-related employers, employees, and freelancers are learning to navigate the reality of employment law and union negotiation, many art funds and charitable at heart are stepping up their support of the arts, including J. Paul Getty Trust.

Contract Law. Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E) published a set of guidelines for the postponement or cancelation of work to help artists and nonprofit institutions navigate the effects of COVID-19 on artists’ contracts and work agreements.

Happy Birthday. On Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday, one of his paintings titled “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884” (1884) was stolen from the Singer Laren museum in the Netherlands, which has been closed to the public due to the coronavirus outbreak. Unsurprisingly, the museum Director is “unbelievably pissed off.”

New Restitution Guidelines. Arts Council England (ACE) has asked The Institute of Art and Law to develop new guidelines for UK museums on restitution. These new recommendations are planned for publication in Fall 2020 and will replace the outdated guidelines that were published in 2000.

Fake Australian Art. Australian First Nations people have been dealing with an influx of counterfeit art with up to 80% of pieces of supposedly aboriginal origin in tourist shops being either fake or not traceable to a First Nations artist. Arts Law Australia has attempted to provide First Nations artists with assistance in protecting their work but have run into difficulty as Australian copyright law protects individual pieces but cannot be used to prevent non-First Nations people from creating works in the style of First Nations art.

Stone-Cold Thieves. Since the devastating fire last April, Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral has been undergoing restoration. However, intensifying COVID-19 quarantine measures in France has halted the restoration efforts indefinitely. Two men were apprehended by guards after allegedly breaking into the construction site and attempting to sack several fallen stones from inside the cathedral. Despite the construction pause, the Notre Dame Cathedral remains guarded 24-hours per day.

#MuseumChallenge. While museums are closed, institutions such as the Getty and the Met challenged their social media followers to let their creativity speak by restaging famous paintings from their collections.

Forged Dead Sea Scrolls. All 16 of the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls which are currently part of the Museum of the Bible’s collection have been confirmed as forgeries. The Dead Sea Scrolls include the oldest known surviving copies of the Old Testament and these fragments were one of the most valuable elements of the Washington DC museum’s collection. A team of researchers found that while the fragments were made of ancient leather, they were inked in modern times. These forgeries draw attention to the museum’s questionable and often unethical collection practices during its formation.

Wake Up, Digital Art Galleries! Due to increases in fraud and theft on the digital marketplace, Nederob is asking digital art galleries to unify their efforts to establish a foundation, create a legal framework capable of identifying fraud and theft, and build a protocol to prosecute criminals where needed.

Turning a Blind Eye. German researcher Sibylle Ehringhaus has resigned from the Georg Schäfer Museum in Bavaria after identifying several artworks with tainted provenance, which, to this date, the museum does not plan to return. Her research shows that at least 20 artworks belonged to Jewish owners, but the museum claims that “the art was bought legally and in good faith” and that compensating the victims of the Nazi occupation is a state function. Ms. Ehringhaus has claimed that the museum denied her access to historical documents vital to her research and has forbidden her from contacting other museums with research inquiries.