Art Law



Art as an asset is unique in its ability to capture the hearts and minds of collectors and audiences; inspire conversations, debates and even controversies; and accumulate financial value, attracting investors interested in alternatives to the stock market. Unlike other types of assets, artworks are usually one of a kind, frequently fragile and precious in every sense of the word. They are a “passion asset” when embellishing an individual’s private collection, a prized possession of a museum or an irreplaceable piece of a country’s history and cultural heritage. 

With the myriad transactions involving art and collectibles, Wilson Elser’s Art Law team is uniquely suited to handle related contracts and issues and counsel clients through due diligence and possible disputes. Proper contracts need to be put in place on behalf of those creating, collecting, consigning, commissioning, conserving, transporting, storing or otherwise handling artwork. Our attorneys are skilled at implementing these transactional assignments, tailoring terms to our clients’ specific requirements and best interests.

Effective legal representation of artists, collectors and art world professionals requires not only an understanding of art and its markets but also ready access to attorneys familiar with the distinct disciplines that rule the art law field. Wilson Elser offers its clients both: Our appreciation of art and knowledge of the art world is matched only by the breadth and depth of related services in our portfolio.

In the event of damage claims, we determine relative exposure, weigh the merits of alternative resolution approaches and carefully calculate cost investments. We enjoy long-standing relationships with qualified appraisers and conservators whose expertise helps determine our resolution strategy. While our practice focuses on managing the entire litigation, we understand that our clients prefer quick and cost-effective resolutions to complex and potentially protracted liability cases. Thus, we do our best to accelerate turnaround through procedural or substantive dismissals, successful tenders and negotiated settlements. 

For contractual assignments, we negotiate and prepare agreements for artists, dealers, collectors, galleries, museums and other art market participants. We also draft service agreements for art world professionals in addition to art storage agreements, installation agreements, exhibition agreements, and terms and conditions for fine art shipping companies. We draw on Wilson Elser’s extensive national office network, our London presence and relationships with European affiliates in resolving domestic and international trade and customs issues. As a founding member of Legalign Global, a close alliance of four of the world’s leading law firms, Wilson Elser enjoys experienced representation in key global regions. We frequently draw on one or more of our three Legalign Global partner firms, Bach Langheid Dallmayr, DAC Beachcroft and Wotton + Kearney (headquartered in Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia, respectively), for their knowledge of local statutes and regulations and their ability to secure licenses and approvals as required. 

Whether for claims or contracts, clients are continually apprised of our progress and provided with information that enables them to make intelligent decisions and assures them that their resources are being deployed effectively and efficiently. In the context of the often obscure art markets, our clients especially value the high premium we place on transparency, integrity and discretion. 

Art is diverse in its form and content, as are the domestic statutes and international laws and conventions that apply to art transactions. When artistic beauty clashes with the perils of business, one needs accomplished assistance and practical advice – the kind that safeguards the value of artwork as both a passion asset and a financial investment. Wilson Elser is proud of its enviable record of achieving favorable resolutions and effecting strong, well-conceived contracts and agreements for its clients.