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Andy Warhol Foundation Wins Copyright Lawsuit Over Prince Portrait & More Art World Headlines

July 26, 2019

Authors: Jana S. Farmer, Andrea Sobolewski

artlaw7-26The following are summaries of news reports pertaining to art law and art markets, organized by geographic regions for your browsing convenience. Wilson Elser’s Art Law practice team will transition this service to our new Art Law Blog, due to launch in the near future. 

UNITED STATES

Andy Warhol Foundation Wins Copyright Lawsuit Over Prince Portrait
Photographer Lynn Goldsmith sued the Andy Warhol Foundation alleging that Warhol unlawfully used her photograph of Prince in a series of 1984 silkscreen works. Vanity Fair originally licensed the photograph in question in 1984 and commissioned Warhol to create an illustration for an article about Prince. Warhol then went on to create 16 more works based on Goldsmith’s photograph. Goldsmith claims that she only found out about the silkscreens in 2016 when Vanity Fair republished the article in the aftermath of Prince’s death. Judge John G. Koeltl of the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the Warhol Foundation, holding that Warhol’s work constituted fair use of Goldsmith’s Prince photograph. Judge Koeltl noted that Warhol transformed Goldsmith’s photograph of “a vulnerable, uncomfortable person” into an “iconic, larger-than-life figure.” The silkscreens are “immediately recognizable as a ‘Warhol’ rather than as a photograph of Prince − in the same way that Warhol’s famous representations of Marilyn Monroe and Mao are recognizable as ‘Warhols,’ not as realistic photographs.” Goldsmith is planning to appeal, calling the case one of “David versus Goliath.”

Where Are All of Bob Ross’s Paintings?
Bob Ross created approximately 1,143 paintings during his PBS show “The Joy of Painting” and created nearly 30,000 paintings during his lifetime. However, there are very few of his works available on the market. The New York Times conducted an investigation to track down the missing paintings and discovered that nearly 1,165 of his paintings are stored in the Bob Ross Inc. headquarters. The facility is closed to visitors and none of the paintings is for sale. However, Bob Ross Inc. did donate several items to the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of American History earlier this year. Whether more of the works will resurface one day remains to be seen.

Collector Sues His Lawyer Over Brancusi Bronze

An 88-year-old collector, Stuart Pivar, has filed a lawsuit against Philadelphia lawyer John McFadden claiming that McFadden tricked him into selling a Constantin Brancusi bronze for only $100,000. Pivar, acting pro se, claims that McFadden convinced him to sell the Brancusi for far less than it is worth, rather than assisting Pivar in a sale of the piece to Christie’s or the Philadelphia Museum of Art. McFadden allegedly approached Pivar with a contract of sale, which Pivar signed. Pivar later learned it was a contract selling the piece to McFadden directly for $100,000. Pivar claims that he did not realize the ramifications of the contract or that the sale was final, and is claiming $200 million in damages.

Manhattan District Attorney Presses Criminal Charges Against Subhash Kapoor
The Manhattan District Attorney charged Subhash Kapoor, a dealer in Indian art, and seven co-conspirators with 86 criminal counts arising out of Kapoor’s alleged operation of a $145 million smuggling ring. It is claimed that Kapoor’s illicit activity spanned 30 years and involved thousands of looted antiquities. In 2012, authorities reportedly seized $100 million worth of allegedly stolen artwork from Kapoor’s storage facilities. Kapoor is presently on trial in India, where he has been imprisoned for the past seven years. U.S. officials are requesting Kapoor’s extradition following the completion of his trial in India.

UNESCO Grants Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings World Heritage Status
UNESCO has designated eight Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the United States as World Heritage sites. Among the buildings included on the list are the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater, and Unity Temple. This is the first time that UNESCO has included modern American buildings on the list. UNESCO cited Wright’s “organic architecture” as well as his groundbreaking use of materials, including steel and concrete, as reasons why UNESCO included the buildings on the list.

Southern District Renders Decision in Contentious Robert Indiana Lawsuit
In a 47-page Order, the Southern District of New York dismissed most of the counterclaims asserted against the Morgan Art Foundation over the intellectual property of pop artist Robert Indiana’s works, including his famous LOVE and HOPE sculptures. The lawsuit initially arose in May 2018, one day before Indiana’s death, when the Morgan Art Foundation filed a lawsuit against Indiana’s caretaker, Jamie Thomas, art dealer Michael McKenzie, McKenzie’s company (AIA), and the estate’s attorney, James W. Brannan. The Morgan alleged that McKenzie and Thomas conspired to produce unauthorized works under Indiana’s name in the style of his LOVE sculpture. AIA counterclaimed that Morgan underpaid Indiana for the sales of his work. However, the court allowed one claim to proceed − that the Morgan made unauthorized reproductions of certain LOVE sculptures in semi-precious stones. The legal proceedings do not show any sign of stopping; Thomas also has filed suit in Maine against Indiana’s estate, seeking nearly $2 million to cover the cost of his legal fees.

Neil Armstrong Auction Nets More than $2.4 Million in Wake of Moon Landing Anniversary
The Armstrong Family collection Space Exploration Signature Auction has netted $2.4 million so far. The bulk of the proceeds stemmed from the sale of Armstrong’s 14-karat gold piece, which he took on his trip to the moon. Other items sold at the auction included an American flag that flew aboard Apollo 11, Armstrong’s personal copy of NASA’s “Preliminary Apollo 11 Flight Plan,” his own NASA flight suit, and his 2004 National Award for Space Achievement trophy. In a space-themed auction week, Sotheby’s also auctioned off 11 items from the personal collection of Buzz Aldrin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also is hosting an exhibition entitled, “Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography.” The exhibit displays a variety of visual media depicting the moon and space exploration.

Supreme Court to Hear Pirate Ship Copyright Lawsuit
In the late 1990s, independent producer and director Rick Allen filmed the salvaging of Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, in Beaufort, North Carolina. North Carolina state officials have since posted five of the videos and one still photograph on its tourism website and on its social media pages. In 2015, Allen sued North Carolina’s governor and other state officials alleging copyright infringement and failure to compensate him for his work. The same year, the state enacted new legislation, which treated all photographs, video recordings, and other documentary materials that depict a shipwreck and its contents as part of the public record. North Carolina further claimed that the state was immune from Allen’s lawsuit and other lawsuits regarding such images pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Allen prevailed in the district court, but the decision was reversed at the appellate level earlier this year. This matter is now to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall, along with two other suits regarding copyright infringement and sovereign immunity.

Famed Art Historian Douglas Crimp Dies at Age 74
Long-time Art History professor at the University of Rochester, Douglas Crimp, passed away on July 5, 2019. Crimp gained notoriety in 1977 through his essay entitled “Pictures,” which accompanied an exhibition of the same name at Artists Space in New York. Crimp’s “Pictures” analyzed the effect that an image has once it is released into the world, focusing on the works of Troy Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Philip Smith, and later Cindy Sherman. Crimp would later explore the role of the museum in placing art forms into the realms of art history and wrote prolifically on the AIDS epidemic and queer theory.

EUROPE

Grave of Could-Be Asterix Found in West Sussex
The grave of a Gallic warrior who may have fought Julius Caesar was discovered on a West Sussex building site. The grave was originally discovered during the excavations for a Berkeley Homes housing development in North Bersted in 2008. However, it took archaeologists years to properly conserve and prepare the artifacts for public display. The discovery will go on display at Chichester’s Novium Museum in January 2020. Archaeologists have described the display as “the most elaborately equipped warrior grave ever found in England,” and believe that the warrior may have been a refugee French Gallic fighter who fled Julius Caesar as he conquered continental Europe in 50 BC, just like the real-life Asterix.

France Retracts from Repatriation Recommendations
The French cultural minister, Franck Riester, backtracked from a report recommending that French museums automatically restitute objects seized from African nations. At a recent conference attended by nearly 200 archaeologists, anthropologists and historians from Europe and Africa, Riester stated that France would examine all requests presented by African nations, but requested that they not “focus on the sole issue of restitution.” Despite the conservative statements, Riester indicated that France is currently working with Benin on the restitution of 26 items claimed to have been looted in a military raid in 1892 − however parliament has not set a date to discuss the move.

Mondrian Heirs Seek Restitution of Paintings from Germany
The heirs of Piet Mondrian are seeking restitution of four paintings that they claim were lent to the German city of Krefeld more than 90 years ago. The heirs attest that Mondrian initially lent at least eight works to Krefeld’s Kaiser Wilhelm Museum for an exhibition that never took place. The works then remained at the museum when Mondrian fled Europe during World War II until the museum’s postwar director sold four of the pieces in the early 1950s. The city has rebutted the claim, stating that it is the rightful owner and that the paintings came into the museum’s possession legally as a gift from Mondrian. Although the heirs’ claims are time-barred under German law, their lawyers note that the heirs could very well file a lawsuit in the United States to overcome the German statute of limitations.

Disagreements Grow Over Reconstruction Plans for Notre Dame
Members of the French Parliament passed a bill that will provide oversight for the nearly $954 million in donations pledged for the restoration of the Notre Dame cathedral. French President Emmanuel Macron attested that the Notre Dame renovations should be completed in five years, however many believe that this time frame is too short. The bill’s passage was delayed due to disagreements from members of parliament who believed that the government is rushing the reconstruction in anticipation of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the French cultural minister claims that the “hurry” is due to the fact that there is still a risk of collapse in some areas of the iconic cathedral.

Zwirner to Open Paris Gallery in the Wake of Brexit
The famed art dealer David Zwirner is scheduled to open a gallery this fall in the center of the Paris gallery district. Although this will be Zwirner’s sixth gallery worldwide, it is his first space in continental Europe. The choice for the gallery’s location is largely the result of Brexit’s effect on the London art market. Zwirner claimed that his London outpost will now be labeled a “British” gallery, while the Paris gallery will be “European.” Zwirner also stated that many of his artists have informed him that they would like to show their work in continental Europe, post-Brexit, which further motivated him to expand in Paris. The gallery is scheduled to open on October 16, 2019, with an exhibition of U.S. artist Raymond Pettibon.

AFRICA

Egypt to Sue Christie’s Over King Tut Statue Sold for $6 Million
Egypt is planning to sue Christie’s in London seeking the repatriation of an 11-inch tall, brown quartzite head of King Tutankhamen. Christie’s sold the nearly 3,000-year-old artifact earlier this month for almost $6 million despite protests and previous repatriation requests from Egypt. Egypt believes the sculpture was stolen from the Karnak Temple in the 1970s. The current owner, the Resandro Collection, acquired the sculpture from art dealer Heinz Herzer in 1985. Herzer has been linked to at least one other instance of alleged antiquities looting.

ASIA

Pace Beijing Gallery Closes Due to Tariff Hikes
After only a decade of operations in Beijing’s 798 art district, the Pace Gallery has closed citing the ongoing trade war between the United States and China as well as Xi Jinping’s duty on American art entering China. The Chinese art market has undergone a transformation in the past decade as Hong Kong now functions as the main market hub. According to the gallery’s founder, Arne Glimcher, since Xi Jinping came to power, individuals are hesitant to display their wealth, mainland Chinese are not buying in China, and many simply purchase from dealers in Hong Kong. For the time being, the Pace gallery will keep an office and viewing room in Beijing and may expand the gallery’s presence in Hong Kong, where it already has two spaces.

 

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