Arts & culture
We have a long history of advising individuals, institutional collectors, estates and trustees, galleries, art and antique dealers on art law issues. Our art lawyers advise on issues from the disputed authenticity of Old Masters to conditional exemption claims for landed estates.
The group are very knowledgeable in this practice area and are delightful to deal with. They are straightforward, easy to talk to and grasp points quickly. They are very bright.
They have committed resources to this area. They've got a very good team there.
Legal 500 2016
Outstanding in this area of law
Chambers HNW 2016
It is an extremely close team, each element of which has its own contribution to make. They bring a very vigorous approach
They have a good team of lawyers, who understand issues specific to the art world which are not at all obvious
Legal 500 2015
Exemplary and pre-eminent for professional negligence claims involving art
Legal 500 2012
Stands out for its art-related litigation experience
Our Art Law Expertise
Our outstanding reputation reflects the experience and expertise that we have accumulated by helping long-standing clients who are active in the art world. With offices in two of London’s largest artistic hubs, Mayfair and Bankside, our team has a deep understanding of the market. We effectively blend arts knowledge and legal expertise to ensure we get the best results. Our clients include artists and their estates, international auction houses, private and institutional collectors, galleries, art and antique dealers, valuers and independent advisors, trustees and leading landed estates and financiers.
Our cross-departmental art law experts advise on commercial and non-contentious issues, heritage and tax planning, dispute resolution, property issues, and issues involving art arising on divorce. What sets us apart is our understanding of the unique issues and concerns that apply to the art world, and our ability to draw on an extensive network of contacts, including experts, valuers and institutions, where necessary. The team are founder members of PAIAM (Professional Advisers to the International Arts Market), are members of IAL (Institute of Art Law) and are recommended by BADA (British Antique Dealers Association).
Download a copy of our Art Law Brochure here.
How can we help you?
We provide expert advice on art litigation including disputes over ownership, authenticity and provenance, misattributed or damaged artwork, restitution or holocaust claims, art fraud, loss of sale and associated losses, and breach of contract. Recent highlights include:
- Advice to a charity on the return of a Banksy to Folkestone - We acted to successfully recover a Banksy mural called ‘Art Buff’ in a case that raised points of wider application in art and property law. The mural first appeared on the back of a leasehold property in September 2014 during the Folkestone Triennial, and was subsequently cut out of the wall by the tenant (without the landlord’s knowledge or permission) and shipped to the US where it was offered for sale. A charity called the Creative Foundation then took an assignment from the landlord of the title to the mural and the right to bring a claim for its return. In September 2015, the Court decided that the tenant was not entitled to remove the mural. Our client, the Creative Foundation is now arranging to put ‘Art Buff’ on public display in Folkestone. Read the press coverage here.
- Leading case on auctioneers' liability: We represented Mr Thwaytes in his professional negligence claim against Sotheby's. The claim arose out of Sotheby's research into and advice regarding a painting of 'The Cardsharps' ("the Painting"). The case was the most high profile art litigation of 2014 and of great importance in the field of art litigation/professional negligence. The Judgment developed this area of law and, in particular, the standard of care and duties owed by a leading auction house to their consigners. Read more...
- Negligence and Breach of Duty: Acting for private collectors in a claim against a leading auction house for negligence and breach of duty as to the research carried out and advice provided to our clients relating to a painting now thought to be by Titian. The painting was sold by our clients in 1994 for £8,000 but was offered for sale at auction in January 2009 with an estimate of $4-6 million. The proceedings were issued in 2007, settling the day before trial (five years later), and the dispute attracted extensive media interest on the basis of the Court papers.
- Dispute over title to manuscripts: Advised the Royal College of Music in connection with the reported case of Day v Royal College of Music (Arnold, interpleader claimant)  EWCA Civ 191. The dispute concerned two competing claims to ownership of 103 manuscripts of works written by Sir Malcolm Arnold, the famous composer, which were held in the Royal College of Music's library. It was alleged by two of Sir Malcolm's children that Sir Malcolm had gifted the manuscripts to them during his lifetime. Sir Malcolm's former carer contended that the gift to the children was invalid and that Sir Malcolm had validly gifted the manuscripts to him in his Will. In holding that the gift to the children was valid, the Court of Appeal confirmed the important principle that only the intention of the donor, and not that of the recipient, is relevant when determining the validity of a gift of chattels by delivery.
- Dispute over Authenticity: On behalf of the Russian purchaser of a misattributed portrait, exploring possible actions against either the dealer himself or the organisation running the sale. The seller subsequently admitted liability for negligent. misrepresentation but declared himself insolvent. We also therefore helped the client to maximise his recovery from the insolvency, successfully increasing the size of the claim originally admitted by the supervisors.
- Disputed Title: Receiving urgent instructions from the owner of a painting due to be sold at auction on behalf of a third party who alleged ownership of it; ensuring that the picture was withdrawn from the auction and negotiating an amicable settlement with the third party.
- Breach of Contract and/or Warranty of Authority: Representing a West End Gallery in an action for breach of contract and/or breach of warranty of authority where another Gallery failed to deliver the work. We sued the defaulting Gallery for the loss of profit that the Claimant had suffered.
- Authenticity Dispute: Assisting a Gallery in relation to a dispute over authenticity of a contemporary work. The method by which the artist creates his works made authenticating his pieces very difficult and so advising upon the requirements to satisfy the Gallery's legal obligations.
- Dispute Ownership: Ongoing advice in relation to a dispute involving the estate of a distinguished politician which concerns the ownership of chattels of national importance.
- Recovery of cultural property: Advising two beneficiaries of a Will on the possible recovery of an historically significant letter which had been sold overseas without the knowledge of the original owner or the beneficiaries.
- Dispute with a leading Auction House: Advising a private company in dispute with a well known firm of auctioneers concerning the conduct of the auction of an unusual collection. It was claimed that the auctioneers failed to inform our clients of an offer to buy the entire collection by a leading artist shortly prior to the auction which was contrary to an express term in the contract.
Charitable Art Law Advice
Many of our clients enjoy supporting the arts. We provide practical advice on the best way to manage gifts and bequests, tax-efficient giving and the setting up and day-to-day management of private charitable foundations for the arts. Recent highlights include:
- Charity Trustees Duties: Advice in relation to duties and responsibilities of charity trustees when receiving gifts of art.
- Gifts and Leaseback: Structuring a gift to a charity and lease back agreement, including detailed advice on the quantum of the rent to be paid by the user, the renegotiation of that rent and the advantages and disadvantages of paying a premium up front rather than an annual rent.
- Cultural Gifts Scheme: Advice in relation to a gift of art to the nation under the Cultural Gifts Scheme, including the tax incentives and procedural aspects of this new scheme.
Private Client & Tax Art Law Advice
Our world-renowned art lawyers provide expert inheritance tax planning in relation to chattels and historic buildings, conditional exemption claims on valuable pieces of art, purchases, gifts and leaseback sales, loans to museums, import and export controls on the movement of art, and owners’ and trustees’ responsibilities. Read our article on Artists and Artists' Estates here. Recent highlights include:
- Conditional Exemption: Strategic advice on the devolution of a very valuable collection of chattels including the first claim for Conditional Exemption for this collection; initiating and concluding negotiations with a well known public Institution to facilitate access to the chattels in situ; subsequently negotiating with HMRC and thereby providing public access to the collection for the first time in its history.
- Structuring Gifts: Structuring a gift of valuable chattels that included a leaseback to the donor in an IHT-efficient way; this case also encompassed advice on CGT, the IHT Reservation of Benefit Rules (and so the level of rent under the lease) and Powers of Attorney.
- Settled Chattels: Advising the Trustees of an old Strict Settlement on the extraction of a conditionally exempt chattel from that Settlement, including the barring of an entail and examining in detail the potentially complex tax consequences of that.
- Tax-Efficient Storage of Art: Liaising with the Trustees of a multi-million pound family trust as regards to a suitable location for the storage and exhibition of a valuable collection of chattels in Switzerland to avoid adverse tax consequences.
- Appointment followed by Sale: Analysing for a client how his Trustees, who held a valuable Old Master of national importance, could distribute the painting to him without a tax charge; and subsequently acting in connection with its sale. This was followed up by further advice on the most tax-efficient way of making gifts of art to a US museum.
- Use of an Enduring Power of Attorney in relation to Chattels: One of the firm's long-standing clients who owns a number of valuable items including paintings, jewellery and other chattels had lost capacity and this matter involved working with his Attorney in connection with the sale of some of those items.
- Using Business Property Relief (BPR): Strategic planning and structuring for a major client, with a view to securing Business Property Relief (BPR) for valuable chattels used in the house opening business, designed to secure IHT advantages but confer greater long-term flexibility than the existing Conditional Exemption Regime.
- Presumed Sale Procedure: Negotiating with HMRC on behalf of a client in relation to the Presumed Sale Procedure because some conditionally exempt chattels could not be located; and agreeing the tax consequences for these items.
- Sale of an Old Master Painting: Tax planning for both CGT and conditional exemption from IHT in connection with the sale of an Old Master.
- Import and Sale: Advising a client on the tax issues arising from the import into the UK and subsequent sale of a valuable sculpture.
- Stolen/Looted Art: Analysing the issues involved in obtaining an export licence (including the operation of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art) and the difficult ownership questions posed when art is alleged to have been stolen during World War II.
- VAT Implications of Importing Art: Assisting a non-domiciled client in relation to the VAT implications of bringing art into the UK from the US.
Commercial Art Law Advice
We provide pragmatic advice for contracts for artists, collectors, dealers and auction houses, and on sale and purchase agreements for collectors, dealers and art investment funds. Recent highlights include:
- Contracts: Advising on the purchase and loan to a professional musician of a valuable antique musical instrument.
- Financing for Galleries: Acting for a bank on the financing of a Fine Arts Gallery.
- Letters of Credit: Advising in connection with Letters of Credit for the purchase of a painting.
- Title issues: Advising a Gallery in relation to a financing by a major bank which included complex title issues and a corporate reorganisation.
- Banking facilities: Advising another bank in relation to banking facilities for the development of a new Gallery in Bond Street.
- Working capital facilities: Advising a bank on working capital facilities secured on a fine art dealer's stock of fine art.
If you own a gallery or small art business, you may find our Business Advice for Galleries Guide useful.
Brown's London Art Weekend
Since 2014, Boodle Hatfield has sponsored Brown's London Art Weekend, a gallery event for art collectors and enthusiasts based in Mayfair. Now a key date in London's cultural calendar, the event draws visitors from all over the world and has seen 150 galleries, auction houses and studios open their doors to the public for one exclusive weekend. To find out more about the event and how Boodle Hatfield have been involved, view the video below, or visit our dedicated blog Art Law & More.
240 Blackfriars Road
DX 53 Chancery Lane
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 7411
Fax: +44 (0)20 7629 2621
6 Grosvenor Street
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 7411
6 Worcester Street
DX 4329 Oxford 1
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 7411
Fax: +44 (0)20 7079 8521