Your Browser Does Not Support JavaScript. Please Update Your Browser and reload page. Have a nice day! July 2023 – Center for Art Law

Audrey Thomas v. Anna Sorokin, No 150109/2023 (NY S.C., May 26, 2023)

Art world fraudster and faux socialite Anna Sorokin, who went by the name of Anna Delvey when she scammed New York’s elite out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, has been sued by her lawyer for failure to pay legal fees. Audrey Thomas was hired by Sorokin in 2020 after she faced multiple financial crime charges including grand larceny. The court documents state that whilst Sorokin met the retainer fee, more than $152,000 is outstanding. It remains to be seen how Sorokin will get out of this one. Interestingly, Thomas was disbarred last November, accused of financial crimes of her own. Thomas asserts that her own financial issues are  completely unrelated to this action and that the fees are due to Thomas for her work involved in Sorokin’s defense. Read the Summons here (COH)

United States v. Dombek, No. 3:23-cr-00149 (M.D. Penn. June 6, 2023)

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania charged nine individuals with conspiracy to steal major artworks and sports memorabilia. Over a period of 20 years, they broke into multiple museums and other institutions to obtain various objects without permission. One individual allegedly burnt a painting valued at approximately $500,000 to avoid its recovery by investigators, in order to conceal such evidence. The location of many of the other paintings and stolen objects is unknown. Read more here (VT)

Case Update: Joe Morford v. Maurizio Cattelan, No. 1:21-cv-20039 (S.D. Fla. June 12, 2023).  

A judge has granted summary judgment in the lawsuit artist Joe Morford brought against Maurizio Cattelan over whether Cattelan copied Morford with the now infamous work Comedian. Comedian was a banana taped to the wall at Art Basel Miami. Morford claimed Cattelan copied his earlier 2001 Banana and Orange, which also included a duct-taped banana as one of the elements of the work. The judge found that Morford could not prove the elements of copyright infringement; specifically, Morford could not establish that Cattelan had access to Banana and Orange due to the work’s lack of popularity and relative obscurity. Further, the judge found a lack of legal similarity following the Eleventh Circuit’s “abstraction – filtration – comparison” test, finding that Cattelan had not copied any protectable and significant aspects of Morford’s work. Based on the lack of access and legal similarity, the judge granted Cattelan’s motion for summary judgment. View the decision here and read more here. (DS)

Hermès International et al v. Mason Rothschild, No. 1:2022-cv-00384 (S.D.N.Y June 23, 2023).

A judge entered a permanent injunction banning Mason Rothschild from selling MetaBirkins, affirming the unanimous jury verdict returned earlier this year. MetaBirkins, an NFT version of the famous Birkin purse sold by Hermès, were found by the jury to infringe the trademarks of Hermès. Rothschild’s  first amendment defense was denied, due to the intentional misleading of consumers to believe MetaBirkin was authorized by the official Hermès brand. The judge’s decision affirmed the jury’s finding, and denied Rothschild’s post-trial motions to interview the jury and for the court to decide the case as a matter of law. Read the order here. (DS)

Cert. Uwrs at Lloyd’s, London; et al. v. Griffin, No. 2023-014822-CA-01 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 5, 2023).

Ken Griffin, a billionaire hedge fund manager, and Larry Gagosian, a high-end art dealer, visited Ron Perelman’s Hampton estate in 2022 to view and potentially buy some of his art collection. After this visit, Perelman filed a 410 million dollar insurance claim due to a fire that had damaged five artworks two years earlier. The insurance companies refused to pay and Perelman filed suit. The insurance companies argue that the works had been protected by plexiglass and had not sustained damage. While Griffin is not a party to the litigation, the insurance companies are seeking his deposition for his statement on the condition of the art during his visit. Griffin is refusing, arguing that it would harm his work to go to the deposition, would be burdensome, and would not be useful. The insurance companies disagreed and filed a motion to compel deposition. See the  declaration in support of the motion to compel here. (DS)   

Countess of Wemysss and March & Anor v. Simon C Dickinson Limited (2022) EWHC 3091 (Ch) 

The appellants sought an appeal for the claim made by the defendant that there was a breach of duty with  respect to the sale of “Le Bénédicité” (the “Painting”). The painting was labeled by the defendants as being by ‘Chardin and Studio’ whilst the appellants believed it could have been sold at a much higher price if directly attributed to the artist. The appellants’ contention that the dealer then sold it for a much higher price, without directly involving them, was the point of contention. The request for appeal was dismissed on two principal counts: firstly, the lack of a contractual requirement that the dealer had to advise or warn the appellants before the conclusion of the sale, and secondly, the non-applicability of the ‘loss of chance’ principle cited by appellants. Read the short dismissal of the appeal here. (JG)