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Spotlight on Art Law Instruction

By Lesley Sotolongo

Art law is taught to different types of students in different forums – law school, undergraduate, graduate, continuing education, and now, even by prominent auction houses. Two popular auction houses that offer art law programs are Christie’s and Sotheby’s. In collaboration with the University of Glasgow in London, Christie’s offers an intensive fifteen-month Master’s program designed to provide their students insights and access to the art market. It is a program that explores the important ethical and legal aspects of working in the commercial art world while also teaching students about the history of art, including the arts of China, the arts of Europe, art style and design or modern and contemporary art.

An interesting component of the program is the opportunity for a work placement at Christie’s. For the 2013 – 2014 academic term, Christie’s admitted eleven students of nine different nationalities out of sixty-four applicants. The program is administered by two distinguished faculty members, The cost of attendance is approximately $53,000 and is offered in the course of three terms: Fall, September 29, 2014 – December 5, 2014, Winter, January 12, 2015 – March 20, 2015, and Spring April 20, 2015 – June 26, 2015. This program is designed for the student who is dedicated to developing a professional career working in the art market.

For those interested in studying in New York, Sotheby’s Institute of Art offers a Master’s in Art Business designed for students with a visual arts or art history background seeking an alternative to the traditional academic model and desire advanced study in arts administration. The program is a combination of rigorous academic instruction and experiential learning. Some of the core courses offered are business, law, marketing and finance. The core curriculum is supplemented with specialized modules such as appraisal techniques, gallery and auction operations, and art collection management. Travel to vital art world destinations and events is also a crucial component of the program providing a platform for students to directly learn from and interact with a broad spectrum of leaders in the art field.

Judith Prowda, Esq. is a full-time faculty member and this will be her seventh year teaching at Sotheby¹s Institute of Art. Prowda recently spoke with Center for Art Law about the Sotheby’s program. She noted that art law is one of the core, year-long courses in the Masters of Art Business program. Students from the two other programs (Masters in Contemporary Art and Masters in American Fine and Decorative Arts) may also take the course as an elective. The first semester focuses on commercial aspects of art and the second semester on ethics and policy. Prowda’s course generally follows the outline of her book, “Visual Arts and the Law: A Handbook for Professionals (Lund Humphries 2013).” She remarks, “our students learn not only legal principles essential to art professionals, but also their applications to current issues in the context of the evolving global art market.” Furthermore, each year the course follows the very latest emerging legal issues. For example, in the past few years the course has been following the most important developments in appropriation fair use cases, museum cases, Nazi-era art restitution, authenticity, artist foundations, and cultural property, to name a few. Prowda also includes a debate component on current policy issues, such as Artist’s Resale Rights, which is ripe for discussion with two bills pending in Congress and the recent New York State Art Authentication bill pending before the New York State Assembly. Prominent speakers from all corners of the legal sphere are also invited to speak, including artists, gallerists, auction counsel, museum counsel, government officials, lawyers focused on art restitution, estate planning, tax and fiduciary law, to name a few. Another wonderful aspect of Sotheby’s legal training is mock negotiations during the first semester. Within the first few weeks of class, in which the students are negotiating artist-dealer agreements, collector-dealer agreements, auction house consignment agreements, artist commission agreements.

In addition to the course itself, the students attend art law conferences, where they learn about the newest developments in the field and have the opportunity to meet lawyers, judges, State Department Officials, academics and other members of the legal community. Finally, a number of the students have published their Art Law paper in the New York State Bar Association¹s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Journal and other journals. The growing list of publications as well as examples of Master’s thesis on the library website at: If you are interested in the Sotheby’s Institute of Art program, it is offered in a combination of three semesters: September – December, January – May, June – October, or alternatively, September – December. Each semester’s tuition is approximately $21,981.

Other options include select art law courses and certificate programs for appraiser, law students, foreign students interested in earning their LLMs and even artists. Schools nationwide that offer art law programs such as Cardozo School of Law, Duke University, University of Pittsburgh, University of California, DePaul University, Miami University, and Tufts University. For example, the New York University School of Continued Education (NYU) offers a certificate in art business. Just to highlight the program, three required courses are: “Today’s American and International Art, Law and Ethics in the Art Markets and The Art Auction.” All three are offered at $450 per course. Alternatively, Fordham University offers The Art & Law Program, which is a semester-long seminar series with a theoretical and philosophical focus on the effects of law and jurisprudence on cultural production and reception. Other training opportunities are offered by practicing attorneys. such as the Art & Law Program founded by a former Volunteer Lawyer’s for the Arts Director of Education and Associate Director, Sergio Sarmiento. This program is now offered in collaboration with Fordham Law School. The Art & Law Program takes place in New York from mid-January to early May.

For those who claim that there is no such thing as art law, there is a wide range of training and learning opportunities happening on the subject. The programs highlighted above are just a few great educational resources for those interested in expanding their knowledge base related to law and the arts.


Christie’s Education website

The Art Law office website.

Sotheby’s Art Institute’s website

About the Author: Lesley Sotolongo, is a third year law student at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She may be reached at

Disclaimer: This article is intended as general information, not legal advice, and is no substitute for seeking representation.