Competition Complaint Filed Against Art Loss Register

Via the Art Newspaper: Art Recovery Group founder Chris Marinello with Matisse's Seated Woman, which was returned to the Rosenberg family last year (left), and Art Loss Register founder and chairman Julian Radcliffe
Via the Art Newspaper: Art Recovery Group founder Chris Marinello with Matisse’s Seated Woman, which was returned to the Rosenberg family last year (left), and Art Loss Register founder and chairman Julian Radcliffe

Melanie Gerlis reports for the Art Loss Newspaper on a competition claim filed against the Art Loss Register. The claim was filed by Chris Marinello, founder of the Art Recovery Group, and former employee of the Art Loss Register:

ARG’s letter to the competition authority accuses ALR of “systemic breaches of competition law”, citing seven examples of “abusive behaviour”. ALR, according to the letter, “is implementing a persistent, pervasive and systematic plan to eliminate ARG fr om the market”.

Heading the list of complaints is what ARG describes as “vexatious litigation”, a reference to a civil claim that ALR took to the UK’s High Court in July. This claim accuses Marinello and others of “the unlawful establishment and operation” of ARG, citing breach of contract, breach of confidence and “infringement of database rights”, among other things. ALR’s claim demands the handover of any confidential information the defendants may have that belongs to ALR.

Marinello and the other defendants filed a counterclaim in November, in which “each and every allegation contained in the particulars of claim is denied”. A subsequent reply and defence was lodged by ALR in December, which also denied all allegations.

James Ratcliffe, ALR’s director of recoveries, lawyer and near-namesake of the company’s founder, says that, while he has not seen ARG’s letter to the competition authority, ALR’s legal actions are “certainly not vexatious” and that there is “no systematic plan” to eliminate its competitor. He says the claim had to be issued to protect the interests of ALR’s stakeholders because Marinello “took confidential information from our business and we don’t know the full extent of it”.

Marinello says: “The ALR knows exactly the extent of information in my possession because it was obtained openly, transparently and with express permission pursuant to an agreement signed by Julian Radcliffe in 2012.”

Julian Radcliffe is ALR’s majority shareholder, although Sotheby’s also has a stake (around 11%), as does Christie’s (around 3%), and Marinello himself (10%).

Both companies are positioned to fill an important function in the art market, and to help recover lost and stolen works of art. Hopefully they can find a way forward to coexist.

Melanie Gerlis, Art Loss Register faces competition complaint from Art Recovery Group, The Art Newspaper (Jan. 26, 2016), http://theartnewspaper.com/market/gloves-come-off-in-fight-to-run-international-database-of-stolen-works-of-art/.

Cambodia and Museé Guimet reunite Khmer statue

7th century sculpture of Harihari
7th century sculpture of Harihari

One of the powerful symbols of the gulf separating museums and source communities are the fragments of sculpture which populate so many galleries. It is the best interest of these museums and the source communities to cooperate when possible, which makes the news from Cambodia welcome.

This 7th-century Khmer head has been in the possession of the Museé Guimet for almost 130 years. But now the Art Newspaper reports the statue and the rest of the statue will be reunited:

The head, which has been in the Musée Guimet’s collection since 1889, will remain in Cambodia for the next five years, says the museum curator Thierry Zéphir. It will be reattached to the decapitated body of Harihara, which the National Museum of Cambodia acquired in 1944, after the museum’s conservation team—led by Bertrand Porte of the French School of Asian Studies—confirmed they were a match.

The head was discovered in the late 19th century in a ruined temple at Phnom Da by Etienne Aymonier, a French colonial administrator and the first archaeologist to survey the remains of the Khmer empire. The Lyon industrialist Emile Guimet acquired the fragment, along with other Cambodian artefacts shipped to France for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, for his ambitious new museum dedicated to the religions of the Far East.

The head of the Harihara statue, which represents the combined gods Vishnu and Shiva, will be on display to the public at the Cambodian national museum today.

  1. Hannah McGivern, French museum reunites head with decapitated Khmer statue (2016), http://theartnewspaper.com/news/conservation/french-museum-reunites-heads-with-decapitated-khmer-statue/ (last visited Jan 20, 2016).

International Cultural Heritage Law Course, Malta

valletta-Malta

This summer I’m slated to teach a two hour credit course on International Cultural Heritage Law in Malta through South Texas’ Malta program, alongside courses in Comparative Tax; and Democracy, Politics and Courts.

More information is available here.

Here’s my course description:

The course will examine the intersection between law and material cultural heritage. It will show how domestic and international law works to resolve disputes over ancient sites, works of art, and antiquities. A particular emphasis will also be the legal instruments which prohibit the intentional destruction and wholescale looting of ancient culture. We will examine international conventions, domestic laws, and analyze the prominent cases which have arisen over cultural heritage disputes.

If you are a law student interested in summer study opportunities, I hope you’ll consider it.

 

Malta

All Art and Cultural Heritage Law, Geneva, June 2016

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The excellent Art-Law Centre has announced its call for papers for its “All Art and Cultural Heritage Law Conference” to be held in June 2016 in Geneva.

From the call:

This conference will host two panels: ‘Cultural Heritage in the Crossfire: Reality and Effectiveness of Protection Efforts’ and ‘Art and Cultural Heritage: What Is the Role for Ethics?’. The aim of the conference is to take stock of, and to further contribute to the recent discussions regarding the protection of cultural heritage from damage and the role of ethics in the art world. In particular, the Art-Law Centre is interested in papers pursuing normative, empirical, comparative or theoretical approaches. We welcome contributions from law and other disciplines, including philosophy, criminology, archaeology and history.

Paper proposals should be emailed to the Art-Law Centre’s team at art-adr@unige.ch by 29 February 2016. Successful applicants will be notified by 14 March 2016, and would be required to submit a summary of their presentation by 23 May 2016.

The ‘Getty Bronze’ forfeiture stalls badly in Italy

Bronze Statue of a Victorious youth, at the Getty Villa
Bronze Statue of a Victorious youth, at the Getty Villa

I’ve written a great deal here about the ongoing dispute between the Getty Museum and officials in Italy over this ancient Greek statue.

In the wake of a pair of regional court rulings in 2010 and 2012 in Pesaro, Italy there seemed a chance that Italy would secure a trans-Atlantic forfeiture of the athlete (which I considered in an article).

But now those Italian court orders have been ruled in violation of the European convention on human rights because the cases were not heard in open court. This should not come as a great surprise, as the Italian court of cassation remanded the case to an Italian constitutional court in 2014, and a favorable result seemed remote. And Italy is now left with an embarrassing and incomplete forfeiture effort, which was only ever going to be the first step of a legal strategy which would be given high marks for degree of difficulty. So this “Fano Athelete” as the Italians describe him will likely not be taking a trip to Italy any time soon.

At present the bronze is a part of the “Power and Pathos” exhibition currently on display at the National Gallery in Washington.

  1. EU law rejects Getty Lysippos restitution verdict, http://theartnewspaper.com/news/eu-law-rejects-getty-lysippos-restitution-verdict/ (last visited Dec 31, 2015).

A rare prison sentence for an antiquities dealer

Federal agents raided the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Thursday as part of a five-year inquiry into smuggled relics. Credit Nick Ut/Associated Press
Federal agents raided the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Thursday as part of a five-year inquiry into smuggled relics. Credit Nick Ut/Associated Press

In 2008 a massive federal investigation unfolded in a coordinated series of searches that produced dramatic images of federal agents standing outside prominent Southern California Museums. As Jason Felch points out:

The investigation sent shockwaves through the art world, suggesting that even amid an international scandal over the Getty Museum’s role in looting, other local museums had continued to do business with the black market. Some critics later called the raids over-zealous, noting that despite that the massive investigation, the government had failed to win jail time in the long-delayed criminal trials that followed.

The museums which were targets of the search included the Los Angles County Museum of Art, Pasadena’s Pacific Asia Museum, the Bowers Museum, and the Mingei Museum in San Diego. One of the antiquities dealers responsible for facilitating moving material from Southeast Asia to the United States was Jonathan Markell. This week he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. An extremely rare occurrence. Markell and his wife Cari were both sentenced this week. They were ordered to return hundreds of objects seized from their gallery, and were ordered to pay the shipping  costs and tax penalties. So at long last a successful prosecution in these raids, which at the time in 2008 seemed destined to produce a number of prosecutions and fundamental changes.

Rick St. Hilaire this week heaped praise on the prosecutors and investigators:

In the annals of cultural property law, prosecutions targeting transnational antiquities trafficking networks are rare. Even more rare are felony convictions. Scarcer too are prison sentences. . . . So what happened this week to a pair of California gallery owners tied in with the “Museum Raids” cases is a momentous achievement, an example of careful and intelligent case development by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, resulting in felony convictions for antiquities traffickers rather than a “seize and send” photo-op that cultural property watchers are accustomed to witnessing.

Whatever you think of the antiquities trade will probably dictate whether you agree with St. Hilaire or not. But this is one of the exceedingly rare prosecutions of an actor in a transnational antiquities network.

  1. Jason Felch, Beverly Hills antiquities dealer sentenced to jail for smuggling scheme, The Art Newspaper, 12–16, 2015, http://theartnewspaper.com/news/museums/beverly-hills-antiquities-dealer-sentenced-to-jail-for-smuggling-scheme/ .

 

Supermarket clerk or principessa? Leonardo or Greenhalgh?

"Profile of a Young Fiancee"  Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Profile_of_a_Young_Fiancee_-_da_Vinci.jpg#/media/File:Profile_of_a_Young_Fiancee_-_da_Vinci.jpg
“La Bella Principessa”

Scott Reyburn aptly summarizes the range of possibilities with respect to the controversial work of art known as “La Bella Principessa” in his report for the New York Times:

By various accounts, then, it would seem that “La Bella Principessa” is either a real Leonardo worth tens of millions; a 19th-century Italian Renaissance style drawing worth tens of thousands; or a modern fake worth hardly anything at all.

The Sunday Times has published a report that claims Shaun Greenhalgh, a prolific art forger who has fooled the Art Institute Chicago, the British Museum, and countless others may be the creator of this work. He claims he created the work in the 1970s, depicting a “bossy” supermarket clerk named Alison.

Doubts should now increase as to whether this is an authentic Leonardo da Vinci. It was purchased by a Canadian, Peter Silverman, who has been trying to demonstrate the authenticity of the work. It seems the work was made on vellum, but may have been done on the wrong side. The art critic Waldemar Januszczak, part of a consortium publishing a limited run of Greenhalgh’s memoirs, writes in the Sunday Times that Greenhalgh “bought an old land deed that had been written on vellum, and finding the ‘good’ side to be too ink stained to use turned it over and drew on the rough side instead, as Leonardo would never have done”.

For now Silverman will keep the work of art at the Geneva freeport. In an attempt to burnish the reputation of the work, he claims he will offer 10,000 pounds to Greenhalgh if he could reproduce the work on vellum, and criticized Januszczak as “shameless”.

  1. Scott Reyburn, An Art World Mystery Worthy of Leonardo, The New York Times, Dec. 4, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/07/arts/international/an-art-world-mystery-worthy-of-leonardo.html.
  2. Josh Boswell and Tim Rayment, “It”s not a da Vinci, it’s Sally from the Co-op’, The Sunday Times, Nov. 29, 2015, http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Arts/article1639169.ece .