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Art litigation

We have a long history of advising private individuals, galleries, arts and antiques dealers and collectors on matters concerning art law and art litigation. Our team has a deep understanding of how the market works and its blend of arts knowledge and legal expertise ensures we get the best result for our clients.

Find an art litigation lawyer

Our art litigation experts provide advice on 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. Many of these matters are high profile and international in nature, involving lawyers from other jurisdictions. Some have received media coverage, including cases involving disputes over the authenticity of Old Masters. 

Download a copy of our Art Law Brochure here

Our specialisms include:

Professional negligence

Our team’s market knowledge and legal expertise has been key to advising on claims for professional negligence against leading auction houses relating to well known Old Master paintings.

Problems over ownership

We regularly advise in situations where there is uncertainty over the ownership of a particular work of art, and have particular experience of acting quickly in situations when the object is due for auction.

Recovery of paintings and other artworks

We have experience of matters involving the recovery of paintings and other artworks both in this jurisdiction and in cross-border cases, and of resolving issues over disputed title in cases involving auction houses, dealers and galleries.

Disputes over authenticity and provenance

The arts world is not always clear cut and disputes over authenticity are widespread. We have in-depth experience of advising owners, galleries and purchasers about their rights and what action is appropriate

Breach of contract, damage and/or loss of sale

We are experienced in finding successful solutions to problems where there is a breach of contract and/or breach of warranty of authority or there is a loss of sale, whether that is because another gallery failed to provide the work or art has been damaged.

If you own a gallery or small art business, you may find our Business Advice for Galleries Guide useful. 

Track Record

  • 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...

  • 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) [2013] 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 with a leading auction house: Acting for private collectors, a brother and sister, in a claim against a leading auction house. The claim was for negligence and breach of duty as to the research carried out and advice provided to our clients relating to a painting sold by our clients in 1994 for £8,000 but offered for sale at auction in January 2009 with an estimate of $4-6 million. The proceedings were issued in 2007 but settled the day before trial. The case attracted extensive media interest on the basis of the Court papers.

  • Advice to buyer on a dispute over authenticity: advised a Russian purchaser of a misattributed portrait, exploring possible action against either the dealer himself or the organisation running the sale. The seller subsequently admitted liability for negligent misrepresentation. As the seller had declared himself insolvent, we also assisted our client in maximising the recovery from the insolvency, successfully increasing the size of the claim originally admitted by the supervisors.

  • Disputed title: Received urgent instructions to act for the owner of a painting which was due to be included in an auction on behalf of a third party who alleged ownership of the painting; requesting that the disputed item be immediately withdrawn from the auction and related correspondence with the auction house and the third party; negotiating an amicable settlement with the third party prior to the auction. 

  • Breach of contract and/or warranty of authority: represented a West End gallery in a case for breach of contract and/or breach of warranty of authority where another gallery failed to provide the work. We were instructed to sue the defaulting gallery for the loss of profit that the gallery suffered.

  • Loss of sale and associated losses: advised a gallery which had agreed shipment of a work to an art fair. The delivery was delayed and when delivered to the art fair it was in a damaged state. Initiating proceedings against the cargo company with assistance from lawyers in another jurisdiction for the loss of the sale and associated damages.

  • Advice to gallery on a dispute over authenticity of a contemporary work: instructed by a well known gallery which had sold two works by a well known contemporary artist to a collector who was now demanding his money back over concerns as to authenticity. The method in which the artist creates the works had made authenticating his pieces very difficult and we advised the client on the applicable requirements to satisfy their legal obligations.

Recent awards

How to find us:
London Bankside

Bankside Office

240 Blackfriars Road
London
SE1 8NW
DX 53 Chancery Lane

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 7411
Fax: +44 (0)20 7629 2621
Email: bh@boodlehatfield.com

London Mayfair

Mayfair Office

6 Grosvenor Street
London
W1K 4PZ

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 7411
Fax: +44 (0)20 7629 2621
Email: bh@boodlehatfield.com

Oxford

Oxford office

6 Worcester Street
Oxford
OX1 2BX

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 7411
Fax: +44 (0)20 7629 2621
Email: bh@boodlehatfield.com

Bankside Office

240 Blackfriars Road
London
SE1 8NW
DX 53 Chancery Lane

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 7411
Fax: +44 (0)20 7629 2621
Email: bh@boodlehatfield.com

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