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.