Recent Matters2018-11-12T16:13:43+00:00

Recent Matters

Our firm has matured over the past five years into a sophisticated international practice, involved in all sectors of the art market, from Contemporary to Modern to Renaissance to Antiquity. We have recently represented clients in the significant matters described below. These are representative of the kinds of matters we handle but exclusive of a large number of ordinary course transactions, disputes, and litigation.

Government Investigations

  • We defended Nancy Wiener, a leading Asian art dealer, in a criminal complaint regarding alleged stolen property issues.
  • We represented Hobby Lobby, Inc. in a civil settlement with U.S. Department of Justice regarding the importation of ancient art.
  • We defended the target of a New York State criminal sales tax investigation regarding the purchase of high-value artwork.

Litigation

  • In re Marc Salz, etc. against Bellagio, LLC, et al. and Christies, Inc., et al., 2018 Slip Op 04965 [First Dep’t July 5, 2018]. In July 2018, the Appellate Division, First Department unanimously affirmed the Order of the New York County Surrogate’s Court granting our clients’ (Bellagio and MGM Resorts), motion to dismiss and denying the turnover petition of Marc Salz. Salz had claimed that Renoir’s La Balayeuse had been wrongfully removed from his father’s estate. The court held that Salz’s allegations were insufficient to show that his father owned La Balayeuse at the time of death and that the statute of limitations for fraud had run.
  • Aboutaam v. L’Office fédérale de la culture de la Confédération Suisse et al., Case Number: 1:18-cv-08248-RA. We represent Hicham Aboutaam in his suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Swiss Federal Office of Culture, Swiss Federal Customs Administration and Canton of Geneva. Mr. Aboutaam owns antiquities that have been “frozen” by the Swiss defendants in connection with their actions against Phoenix S.A., an antiquities gallery in Geneva owned by Mr. Aboutaam’s brother. Mr. Aboutaam seeks declaratory judgment that he has title to his property—to which no third party has asserted any claim—and judgment on claims of conversion and unjust enrichment against the defendants, who have expropriated his property without compensation, in violation of Swiss and international law.
  • Beierwaltes v. L’Office fédérale de la culture de la Confédération Suisse et al., Case Number: 1:18-cv-0211-MSK-MEH. We are co-counsel to U.S. collectors Lynda and William Beierwaltes. The Beierwaltes have consigned antiquities to Phoenix in Geneva. The Beierwaltes’ property has also been “frozen” by the Swiss defendants. The Beierwaltes have commenced a parallel action in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, asserting causes of action against the defendants similar to those asserted by Mr. Aboutaam.
  • Beierwaltes v. Directorate General of Antiquities of the Lebanese Republic and the District Attorney of New York County. We represented Lynda and William Beierwaltes in their complaint for declaratory judgment against the Republic of Lebanon filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to clear title to an Archaic Greek Bull’s Head and a related “turnover” proceeding by the District Attorney of New York for restitution in New York Supreme Court.
  • Galerie Salis, GMBH v. Frank Kaminski dba Kaminski Auctioneers, The Orosco Family Trust, and James Orosco, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. We represented Galerie Salis in connection with a dispute over the authenticity of a Giacometti table purchased at auction.
  • John Eskenazi, Ltd. v. Maitreya Inc., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. We represented British art dealer John Eskenazi who filed suit against NY-based Asian art dealer Nayef Homsi and his corporation, Maitreya Inc. alleging breach of warranty, fraud, civil conspiracy, and unjust enrichment and demanding in damages arising from Eskenazi’s purchase from Maitreya of a 9th-c. Indian statue of the god Bhairava, which the Department of Homeland Security alleged was stolen from an Indian temple. The District Attorney of New York filed a forfeiture action against Maitreya, alleging that it knew that the Bhairava and other statues were stolen.

Transactions

  • We represented the purchaser of a $30 million Impressionist painting in a heavily negotiated international private sale.
  • We represented Artvest LLC in connection with the formation of a joint venture to manage TEFAF New York Art Fairs at the Park Avenue Armory.
  • We continue to represent the TEFAF New York art fairs in commercial matters with sponsors and other third parties and regulatory issues.
  • We represented Paddle8 in the sale of Wu-Tang Clan’s “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” as a work of art.

Disputes

  • We represented a leading collector in a disputed insurance claim for damage to an important work by a well-known contemporary artist.
  • We represented a leading collector in connection with a stolen $1M Renaissance manuscript.
  • We represented a leading gallery in demand by foreign government for return of a $1M sculpture.