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

United States

Oliver v. Boone et al., No. 1:2020-cv-00332 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2020). New York Art dealer, Mary Boone, is facing a lawsuit brought by her former associate, James Oliver. Last Spring, Boone was sentenced to 30 months in prison for filing false tax returns and using $1.16 million in gallery funds for personal expenses. The suit filed by Oliver on January 14, 2020 in the Southern District of New York, alleges that Oliver is due unpaid wages and that Boone “misappropriated” funds from $10 million in art sales. Oliver claims the Boone instructed buyers to transfer money directly into her personal account and that he did not receive the 10% share of the profits to which he was entitled as part-owner of the gallery. Complaint available upon request.

Morgan Art Foundation Limited, et al. v. Brannan, No. 18-CV-8231, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14043 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 28, 2020). The Southern District of New York dismissed four claims made by James W. Brannan, personal representative of Robert Indiana’s estate, against the Morgan Art Foundation (“MAF”). MAF provided the court with two agreements with Indiana, which proved that the artist gave the Foundation copyright and trademark rights to all images and sculptures Indiana produced between 1960 and 2004, including the iconic LOVE and HOPE sculptures. Opinion available here.

Robert Blumenthal Gallery, LLC v. Derek Fordjour, No. 650795/2020 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Feb. 4, 2020). Art dealer Robert Blumenthal has filed suit against the artist Derek Fordjour, claiming that 6 years ago, he prepaid $20,000 for 20 of the artist’s works but only received 13 of them. The artist has skyrocketed in popularity in the intervening years, with his work selling for up to $169,293. Blumenthal, who paid $1,000 per painting, is seeking $1.45 million in damages, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Complaint available here.

BoxNic Anstalt v. Gallerie Degli Uffizi, No. CV-18-1263-PHX-DGC, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18761, 2020 WL 570945 (D. Ariz. Feb. 5, 2020). The Arizona District Court has ruled that third parties are not allowed to use the Uffizi Gallery’s name in their domain names. The defendant, BoxNic Anstalt, was using such sites including and, to confuse visitors into believing that they were visiting the official museum website and into buying tickets at inflated prices. Decision available upon request.

Silver v. Alon Zakaim Fine Art Ltd., NY Slip Op 00978 (N.Y. App. Div. Feb. 11, 2020). The First Appellate Division of New York upheld a ruling in favor of Rick Silver, as he sought the return of Marc Chagall’s “Bouquet de Giroflees” from a group of London galleries. Silver alleged that, after the painting was purchased from the Chowaiki & Co. Gallery, the gallery’s owner, Ezra Chowaiki, fraudulently induced Silver to consign the painting back to the gallery. Silver alleged that Chowaiki then consigned the work to others, used the painting as collateral, and sold shares in the painting to the aforementioned London Galleries without Silver’s consent and without sharing the proceeds. Silver further asserts that subsequent buyers of shares in the painting are not bona fide purchasers for value, as they did not carry out even basic measures to ascertain if the painting was available for sale, such as performing a UCC Lien Search. The Appellate Division dismissed jurisdictional issues and allegations that there were not sufficient “red flags” to warn the galleries about liens on the piece, increasing the likelihood that the painting will eventually be returned to Silver. Decision available upon request.

Meaders v. Helwaser, No. 1:2018cv05039 (S.D.N.Y. 2020). A judge has resolved a dispute over a sculpture by Alexander Calder, originally gifted to his lawyer, Paul L. Meaders, Jr. The sculpture passed to his wife, Jane, upon Mr. Meaders death. Upon Jane’s death, her son (Paul Meaders III) was named as executor to the estate, while Jane’s tangible property passed to both her son and her daughter,Phyliss. After their mother’s death in 2001, Paul took possession of the sculpture and sold it to Helwaser Gallery in 2016. Phyliss contested the sale, which she believed she had the right to do as part owner. Summary judgment was granted on the grounds that Phyliss had not sufficiently established that she was part owner of the work. Decision available upon request.

Castillo v. G&M Realty L.P., Nos. 18-498-cv (L), 18-538-cv (CON), 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 5228 (2d Cir. Feb. 20, 2020). Putting an end to a 7-year long dispute over the whitewashing of the Long Island City-based “graffiti mecca” known as 5Pointz, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld Hon. Frederick Block’s February 2018 ruling for the District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Judge Block awarded $6.75 million in statutory damages to 21 aerosol artists whose works were destroyed without prior notice by the owner of the building where the artists had been authorized to create for a decade. Read our case review here.


France | Artist and Russian dissident, Pyotr Pavlensky, has released a pornographic video that he claims features French politician Benjamin Griveaux, who was running for the office of mayor of Paris. Pavlensky claims that he plans to create a “political porn” website to expose “political hypocrisy.” Pavlensky and his partner, Alexandra de Taddeo, have been indicted on charges of “invasion of privacy” and “dissemination without the consent of the person [involved] of sexual images,” Griveaux has since dropped out of the mayoral race.

France | A recent French Supreme Court ruling upheld an archaic 19-century law where any woman who bares her breast in public, regardless of her motivation––political, artistic or otherwise–– can be charged with “sexual exhibitionism.” On February 26, 2020, the court overturned the Paris Court of Appeals’ decision and confirmed Iana Zhdanova’s charge of sexual exhibition after she led a “Femen” topless protest performance at a museum in Paris. C. Cass, Arrêt n°35 du 26 février 2020 (19-81.827)available here (French).

Germany | A German court dismissed a complaint against the German government-run database of Nazi-looted art, The court held the current possessor of a work cannot prevent claimants from listing works in the database, as the listing does not constitute the assertion of a claim of ownership. This decision comes in response to a suit by Wolfgang Peiffer, who unknowingly bought a painting which had been sold under duress by the Jewish art dealer Max Stern when he was forced to flee Germany.

Germany | Local Jewish committee member, Michael Düllman, brought an action against St. Mary’s Church in Wittenburg, Germany, seeking removal of “Judensau” from the church’s wall. The 700-year old sculpture carved into the wall depicts a rabbi lifting a sow’s tail to peer at its behind while Jewish children suckle on a pig’s teat. Düllman claimed “Judensau” is “defamatory” and “an insult to the Jewish people.” On February 4, 2020, a German court ruled that “Judensau” did not constitute an offense and may remain there. Düllman will appeal his case in Germany’s Federal Court of Justice and said he was prepared to take his claim to the European Court of Human Rights.

Spain| Spanish billionaire Jaime Botín, grandson of the founder of Santander SA Bank, has been sentenced by a Spanish Judge to 3 years in prison and fined $101 million dollars. The sentence was revised from the original 18 months in prison and a $58 million fine. In 2015, Picasso’s “Head of a Young Woman” was seized from Botin’s yacht off the coast of France. Botin removed the painting from Spain, despite an administrative ban forbidding him from taking it out of the country.