Updates from the most recent IAL Study Forum

Posted on: October 16, 2019 by

We were delighted to welcome attendees from far and wide to the latest IAL Study Forum, held on the 12th October 2019.

Speakers with expertise from across the legal and art spheres, with backgrounds ranging from museum work to auction houses covered a correspondingly broad range of topics. Lisette Aguilar (Keystone Law, former Associate General Counsel and Senior Director at Sotheby’s) started the day with a fascinating insight on her role in several attribution disputes and the law of negligence. She noted that attributions to specific artists are always a matter of opinion, making it very difficult for a claimant to prove negligence on the part of an auction house. Perhaps this is why, in her 12 years at Sotheby’s, only two disagreements over attributions went to court.

Richard Edwards QC (3 Verulam Buildings) explained the application of the law of agency to art transactions, focussing on the issue of undisclosed commissions. Specifically, it was discussed whether industry standard practices could overcome the legal obligations between an agent (dealer) and a principal (seller).

Copyright law and appropriation art were examined by our next speaker, Maryam Parsioon, a PhD candidate at Queen Mary University of London. By discussing the provocative work of Richard Prince, she questioned how United States copyright laws can protect current artistic works without stifling future creativity.

Dr Jacques Schuhmacher (Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Provenance and Spoliation Curator, V&A Museum) gave a fascinating insight into the difficulties faced by museums when conducting provenance research in the context of Nazi looted artworks.

The issue of sovereign immunity was addressed by Luke Tattersall (Essex Court Chambers), who provided some practical advice in anticipating and overcoming any legal barriers resulting from this doctrine.

Alexander Herman, Assistant Director (right), Julia Rodrigues Casella Hommes, Researcher (left). Image: (C) Charlotte Dunn

IAL’s Julia Rodrigues Casella Hommes concluded the day with a discussion of the new anti-money laundering rules. She demonstrated the real risk of money laundering in the art market and highlighted the need for the industry to change its attitude and embrace the inevitable increase in regulation.

Whether it be how copyright will adapt to new artistic movements or how museums adjust to increasing scrutiny over objects’ provenance, the day’s talks demonstrated that the intersection between art and law remains complex and crucial.