Book review: Art Law and the Business of Art

This book review, of Art Law and the Business of Art, is brought to you by former Guest Kat Antonella Gentile, here's what she says:

The author introduces the reader in such world step by step since the preface where he underlines how the interplay between art and law has developed in the last twenty years: 

Art law and the business of art by Martin Wilson is a journey in the fascinating world of art and auctions with a special focus on the interplay between art and law.     

Art Law and the Business of Art

“My first taste of the art world was in the 1998, when I joined the legal department of Christie’s auction house. The concept of an “art lawyer” did not exist at that time. I was simply a commercial lawyer working at a business which happened to sell art. I had been recruited to the three person legal team in London because Christie’s had begun to see more disputes and some contracts for the sale of property were being negotiated rather than concluded on standard terms. This was a novelty because at that time transactions in the art world were largely conducted on the basis of a handshake or an invoice. Usually the only area of negotiation was price. When disputed arose they were rarely resolved through the courts. As a result, legal advice was not usually required. Over the following 20 years, however, all of that was to change. By the time I left Christie’s in 2017 the legal department numbered 40 employees, and many lawyers – both established and newly qualifies – now aspire to become art lawyers.”

On one hand, Art law and the business of art analyses legal issues related to the world of art, such as copyright, transfer of ownership, warranties and contractual obligations with a focus on the legislation of the United Kingdom.  

On the other hand, it gives a deep overview of how an auction house works, how the catalogue for an auction is prepared (and the negotiation behind it), and in general, what happens in the backstage of an auction house.

The approach to these subjects is such that also non-lawyers and non-art experts will find the book accessible. Practical examples are provided to explain both complex legal concepts and practices connected to the auction’s worlds to the non-experts.

The reader will learn about interesting facts connected to art works such as the extremely successful outcome of the 2017 auction sale by Christie’s of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvatore Mundi or the decision by Christie’s not to sell a collection of paintings by Joan Miro because of the risk of continuing disputes with Portugal on its ownership.

The boos is divided is 18 chapters:

The first chapter, “Artist and the artwork” gives an overview of the basis of copyright, explaining concepts as originality and moral rights.

The second chapter, “Auction sales: introduction” explains the auction process from the decision of the seller to sell the art work (and the related decision of the choice of an auction house, which is often driven by relationships built over the years) to how the buyer is charged.

The third chapter, “Auctions: the auction house” describes the role of the auction house in the transaction of the art work and the relationship between the seller and the auction house and the relationship between the last one and the buyer.

The fourth chapter, “Auctions: financial arrangements” underlines the pros and the cons of an auction for the seller. The major risk being the lots to be unsold and the art work losing its value and becoming extremely difficult to sell in the following years. The chapter than describes how, for this reason, often the risks connected to the auction are translated from the seller to the auction house, and, eventually, to a potential buyer.

The fifth chapter, “Ownership and authenticity” focuses on the difficulties connected to the proof of ownership in what is described as the most common area of litigation in the art world.

The sixth and seven chapters, “Auctions: policing the saleroom” and “Auctions: online auctions” focus, respectively, i) on the regulation of the auctions to guarantee a public and transparent competition among the bidders, such as the Mock Auctions Act and ii) on the characteristics of the online auctions and the rights of the bidders.

Where for art thou Kat
Image: Felipe Tofani
The eight chapter, “Auctions: negotiating agency agreements” describes some of the clauses of the agreement between the seller and the house auction, such as the common clauses regarding the payment but also the specific clauses concerning the catalogue description.

The ninth chapter, “Private sales of art” deals with the structure and the negotiation of private sale agreements between the seller and the buyer or using an agent.

The tenth chapter, “Ethics, public policy and art” tackles questions such as the holocaust restitution claims and the cultural property and heritage. Both questions are faced, firstly, framing the historical context and the international conventions, secondly, focusing of the specific issues in the United Kingdom.

The eleventh and twelfth chapters, “Art and taxation” and “Shipping, export and insurance of art” deal with practical aspects of a transaction regarding an art work.

Chapters thirteen and fourteen, “Museum” and “Art funds” deal with the problems connected to the acquisition and disposal of art works by a museum and the acquisition of arts for investment purposes.

Chapter fifteen tackles the question of “Art dispute”. The author describes these disputes as common but confidential and discrete, in the sense that very rarely they reach trial.

Chapter sixteen, seventeen and eighteen tackle legal aspects connected to the art law, in particular, the anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance, the Bribery act and the data protection, providing the reader with the legal framework in the United Kingdom.

Art law and the business of art is a useful tool if you are interested in understanding the legal implications of the world of art in all their aspects from the specific point of view of the legislation of United Kingdom.
Published: 2019
Format: Paperback and Hardback
Extent: 456 (including preface and index)
ISBN: Paperback 978 1 78897 989 4, Hardback 978 1 78897 987 0
here in paperback and hard cover

Book review: Art Law and the Business of Art Book review: Art Law and the Business of Art Reviewed by Hayleigh Bosher on Wednesday, April 08, 2020 Rating: 5

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