Your Browser Does Not Support JavaScript. Please Update Your Browser and reload page. Have a nice day! From the April 2020 Newsletter – Center for Art Law

United States

Tarducci v. Coates, No. 1:2020-cv-00069 (D. R.I. Feb. 11, 2020). Artist Mia Tarducci is suing gallery owner Kristen Coats for copyright infringement. Tarducci consigned several to her paintings to Coats’ Bellvue Gallery in Newport, RI in 2016. Later, Tarducci noticed very similar works for sale on Coates’ website, purporting to be Coate’s own work. The complaint was filed in February of 2020. Complaint available upon request.

The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC v. Sotheby’s, Inc., No. 1:20-cv-01841 (S.D.N.Y. filed on Mar. 2, 2020). The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC (“the Estate”) filed a complaint against Defendants Edward Meringolo and Sotheby’s, Inc. for replevin and conversion, demanding the return of a photograph by Ana Mendieta, titled Guanaroca – Esculturas Rupestras (“the Photograph”). After Mendieta’s death, her sister, Raquelin Mendieta, formed the Estate. Upon creating an inventory of the deceased’s artwork, Raquelin discovered that the Photograph was missing and that it had been consigned with Sotheby’s, Inc. by Meringolo without any documentary evidence that he was a good faith purchaser or that Ana Mendieta had gifted or sold the Photograph. The Estate is asking the Defendants to immediately return the Photograph to them, at the sole cost and expense of the Defendants, and also requests that Defendants pay reasonable attorney fees.

Zuckerman v. Metro. Museum of Art, 928 F.3d 186 (2nd Cir. 2019), petition for cert. denied (Mar. 3, 2020) (18-634). In the dispute over the ownership of Picasso’s “The Actor”, the Supreme Court refused to grant certiorari requested by the heirs of the Jewish owners of the painting, which is now in the possession of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The case was dismissed by the Second Circuit in 2019, based on the doctrine of latches, and the plaintiff petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether the state doctrine of latches would trump the federal the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016 (HEAR Act). Read our case review here. Petition for Writ Of Certiorari available here.

United States v. Righter, No. 2:220-cr-00131 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 10, 2020) and No. 1:2019-cr-20370 (S.D. FL. Mar. 16, 2020). Philip Righter has pled guilty to selling fake artworks by artists including Warhol, Basquiat, Haring, and Lichtenstein. Righter also used the works as collateral for loans on which he later defaulted. The total fraud damages are estimated at $6 million, in addition to $100,000 in lost government revenue as a result of falsely filed tax returns. Righter faces up to 25 years in prison, pursuant to his plea agreement with the Los Angeles Federal Court. The plea agreement is available here. Righter faces additional charges in Florida related to his illegal conduct while running a Florida Art Gallery. His plea agreement in Florida is pending.

In re P8H, Inc., Docket No. 1:2020bk10809Petition No. 20-10809-smb (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Mar. 16, 2020). Online auction house Paddle8 has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York, just one week after suit was brought against them by the nonprofit, New American Cinema Group. New American alleges that the online auction house failed to remit them the funds earned from a charity auction held last November. Paddle8’s creditors also include celebrities such as Justin and Haley Bieber, who claim that they are owed $73,000, and Jay Z’s Shawn Carter Foundation, which claims to be owed $65,000.

Oliver v. Meow Wolf, Inc et al., No. 1:20-cv-00237-KK-SCY (D.N.M. Mar. 16, 2020). ArtistLauren Adele Oliver claims that her piece, Space Owl, helped Meow Wolf become a multi-million dollar enterprise, but that she hasn’t been properly credited or remunerated. Oliver alleges that the company promised her an “artist revenue share,” and she only received $2,000 for her work, which is less than the cost to produce and install the piece. Additionally, Oliver is also suing for copyright infringement after she asked the company not to use Space Owl for promotional purposes until an agreement was in place and, nevertheless, the company prominently featured Space Owl in a trailer for Meow Wolf’s self-made documentary.

Art Ask Agency v. Parties Identified on Schedule A, No. 1:20-cv-01666 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 18, 2020). The Northern Division of Eastern Illinois District Court denied Art Ask Agency’s motion for temporary restraining order against counterfeiters in China who are selling accessories with artist Anna Stokes’ licensed unicorn designs. Art Ask Agency’s claim was denied because it made no showing of an estimate of anticipated loss sales due to the counterfeit. Order available here.

Robert Blumenthal Gallery, LLC v. Derek Fordjour, No. 650795/2020 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. filed on Mar. 19, 2020). In the lawsuit brought by art dealer Robert Blumenthal against artist Derek Fordjour, based on Plaintiff’s allegations that the artist has failed to deliver commissioned artworks, Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. Defendant’s filings also demand that all the works he allegedly gave to Blumenthal on consignment now be returned. Complaint available here and motion available upon request.

Allen v. Cooper, No. 18-877, 2020 U.S. LEXIS 1909 (Mar. 23, 2020). The United States Supreme Court has held that videographer Frederick Allen may not bring suit against the state of North Carolina for unauthorized use of his copyrighted material. In 1996, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, flagship of the infamous pirate Blackbeard, was discovered off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina. The state of North Carolina used Allen’s copyrighted photos and videos of the efforts to recover the ship on their website without his permission. With this decision, the Supreme Court has confirmed that states have sovereign immunity and cannot be sued based on federal copyright claims. The opinion is available here.

Solid Oak Sketches, LLC v. Visual Concepts, LLC et al, No. 1:16-cv-00724 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2020). In 2016, tattoo company Solid Oak Sketches (“Plaintiff”) sued Take-Two Interactive (“Defendants”), a video game publisher, for unauthorized reproduction of its tattoo designs on LeBron James and two other NBA players. The Southern District Court of New York held that Defendants’ use of the Tattoos in the challenged versions of their video game is de minimis and fair use and therefore does not infringe Plaintiff’s copyrights. The court also noted that “tattooists necessarily granted the Players nonexclusive licenses to use the Tattoos as part of their likenesses.” Decision available here.


Brazil | Brazilian collector and mining company owner, Bernardo Paz, has been cleared of money laundering charges under the federal appeals court in Brazil. In 2017, Paz was sentenced to jail for nine years and three months for money laundering related to the Instituto Inhotim, which was a museum and sculpture park founded by Paz in 2006. Paz allegedly used $98.5 million in funds deposited to Horizonte, a company which was set up to benefit the nonprofit Instituto Inhotim, to pay for the expenses and debts related to Paz’s mining business, rather than support the museum. Paz has been acquitted of all charges.

India | The Instagram account @HerdSceneAnd has taken a stand against sexual harassment in the Indian art world by publishing anonymous accusations that artist Subodh Gupta and several other prominent men in the south Asia art scene have sexually harassed women. Gupta sued the Instagram account for defamation, raising concerns from Google, Facebook, and the Indian Journalist Union, who argued that this case would have a chilling effect on free speech in India. Although the parties settled outside of court, the Indian court allowed @HerdSceneAnd to keep up the posts and the account is still active.