COVID-19: What are the legal implications for the UK arts market?

As the outbreak of COVID-19 has intensified, the UK art market, an inherently international industry, which thrives on both its domestic and global events, has felt the unprecedented effects. With art fairs cancelled and galleries’, museums’ and auctioneers’ doors forced to close, these are uncertain and exceptional times. In an industry which encompasses such a wide range of businesses, from the self-employed artist to the international auction house employing hundreds of staff worldwide, the challenges faced by those in the art market will be many and varied.  Below we address some key legal implications for the market, and look at the ways Britain is supporting one of its most high profile and lucrative industries. Continue reading

Public artwork – too anodyne?

Historically, public art has been used to memorialise and boast of the accomplishments, wealth or patronage of citizens and rulers. Across London, imposing stone memorials and dramatic rearing bronze horses celebrate our military achievements, fantastical dinosaurs creep through the park in Crystal Palace and imposing Landseer lions guard one of our most-loved public spaces. In comparison, modern public art seems to provide ever increasingly banal viewing and to be generally widely disliked by the public. With every new high-rise, some new much-maligned sculpture or art installation arrives on the streets of London and we seem to be drifting ever further away from the exciting, dramatic and engaging pieces of previous centuries. Continue reading

Collective Ownership of Collections: When co-owners disagree

In Butler and another v Butler and another [2016] EWHC 1793 (Ch) a collector had amassed a collection of several hundred 17th century Chinese pots, valued at up to £8 million. He gave most of these to his four adult children in equal shares. This gift was made formally, by a deed, but the children themselves did not enter any written agreement governing their relationship with the collection.

The children preserved the collection for over 25 years while their father remained alive. When he died, two of the children (the Claimants) wished for the collection to be distributed amongst each of them, whereas the other two (the Defendants) wished to preserve the collection for scholarly study and exhibition. What happens to the collection in such circumstances and how does the Court decide?  Continue reading

Law Commission calls for reform to art finance law

On Monday 19 September 2016, Boodle Hatfield LLP was delighted to host a seminar presenting the Law Commission’s recommendations on reforming the law of loans secured on personal goods.

The Law Commission highlighted the Bills of Sale Act 1878 and the Bills of Sale Amendment Act 1882 as being archaic Victorian statutes which are wholly unsuited for modern credit arrangements. The calls for reform have stemmed from the logbook loan sector which uses Bills of Sales to secure loans and where sharp practices have been deemed disproportionate and unfair on borrowers. The proposed reforms will not only regulate the logbook loan market but will also have knock on effects on the more exclusive art and luxury asset lending sector. Continue reading

Why English Heritage were liable for a visitor’s injuries and how similar institutions can minimise their risks


Earlier this year, The Court of Appeal upheld the ruling that English Heritage were fifty per cent liable for injuries that a member of the public, Mr Taylor, suffered whilst visiting Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, as they failed ‘…to warn visitors by means of a sign of the danger which gave rise to the accident (read the judgment here). But what does this mean for similar organisations and how can the risk of liability be managed?

First, a bit about the case. Mr Taylor visited the Castle grounds in 2011 with his family; they took ‘Bastion Walk’, which lead to an elevated firing platform.  Mr Taylor left to take better photographs via a steep slope to an informal grass pathway which follows around the top of the outer bastion wall, which unbeknown to him led to a twelve foot drop into a dry moat.  He was found by his family minutes later lying in the dry moat.  Continue reading

Auction house guarantees: Friend or foe?

Auction house and third party guarantees are a hot topic at the moment, with Bloomberg reporting that, for the 2015 New York autumn sales, $1 billion – approximately half – of the $2 billion total value of lots were already sold before the “paddles are even raised” (Bloomberg, 29 October 2015). On 9 September 2015, Sotheby’s filed a Form 8-K with the US Securities and Exchange Commission confirming that they had entered into an arrangement with the Estate of A. Alfred Taubman, their former chairman, to sell art from his collection, which was estimated to be worth in excess of $500 million. The arrangement provided that “Sotheby’s agreed to provide an auction guarantee for the collection at approximately that level”. Continue reading