Art litigation

Our art litigation team is deeply connected to the art world.

With several decades’ collective experience in representing large and small auction houses, art dealers and galleries, art advisors, museums, collectors, art lenders, art appraisers, artists and artist-endowed foundations, we are experienced in all types of disputes.

We can assist you with the negotiation, arbitration, mediation and litigation of disputes. Our aim is to find consensual means of resolving your conflict wherever possible, as negotiated settlements and mediated solutions are often confidential, quicker, cheaper and less disruptive to your business.

If, however, litigation is the best course, we will take decisive action to defend your interests. We have extensive experience in ownership and restitution claims, authenticity disputes, and compensation claims when art has been lost, destroyed or damaged, as well as in cases of art fraud and theft.

Our art litigation team works with clients from all around the world, including commercial galleries, art dealers and non-profit organizations.

We also regularly deal with the ownership or sale of art in family disputes. Our private client, family and divorce teams in London, Hong Kong and Singapore have wide ranging experience advising on art and luxury assets in settlement agreements.

For further help or information

Get in touch

Track record

Family trust set up to own art

We are advising in a dispute over the ownership of over 300 paintings worth approximately £13 million belonging to a company owned by a family trust. One of the beneficiaries of the trust, who had been custodian of the art, sold a number of works to auction houses as security for loans and we are currently negotiating the return of the remaining artworks. The works of art include paintings by Picasso, Renoir and Matisse.

Institute of Contemporary Arts

We offer general employment and employee benefits advice, supplementing the HR function at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Major art forgery

Represented an art collector who purchased what was represented to be a painting by a well-known American painter, but which was revealed to be one of many forged paintings in a major art forgery scandal. In a similar case, Withers London acted for a collector against an auction house when he discovered that they had been selling numerous paintings by the same forger.

USD$100 million Industry-wide art fraud

We represented a major art lender in exposing a dealer who committed an industry-wide fraud, and successfully represented the lender in several follow on cases to clean up multiple competing title claims and insurance recoveries.

An art heir

We represented the son and heir of a well-known American painter in cases arising out of a major art fraud worth an estimated $100 million. Our client had been among numerous victims of a Manhattan dealer who had committed the deceit to fund his extravagant lifestyle.

A large international auction house

Withers’ pre-eminent reputation in the art world led a highly respected auction house to ask for our help with a series of multi-jurisdiction lawsuits. The fascinating case concerned one of the world’s largest tribal art collections, which was subject to competing ownership claims by siblings, as well as being pledged as collateral for a loan and donated to a museum.

London art dealer in dispute with Italian collector

We acted for a London based art dealer against an Italian collector in a dispute relating to the sale of two Old Master paintings that they jointly owned. Proceedings were brought in London and Geneva, and subsequently settled following extensive negotiations.

LCIA arbitration in art sector

Advised a company specialising in buying and selling art in an LCIA arbitration dispute over the ownership of a Monet painting under Swiss law.

Potential claim by the Italian State on the ownership of a Roman marble relief

We acted for the trustees of an estate in advising on a potential claim by the Italian State to the ownership of a Roman era fragment marble relief. The relief was purchased in the 1960s in Switzerland and passed to the state following the death of the purchaser. Having been put up for sale by the trustees, it was spotted at an art fair as being linked to a number of other reliefs that had been seized by the Italian authorities having been illegally excavated in the early 2000s. Withers assisted the trustees in bringing about the restitution of the relief to Italy.

Renowned industrial designer in proceedings against a former business associate

We represented a company related to a renowned industrial designer in English and New York proceedings against a former business associate who had defaulted on a loan and misappropriated numerous artworks belonging to the company. The proceedings were settled with, amongst other matters, a significant number of the artworks being returned to their rightful owner.

Art theft case for underwriters

Following the alleged theft of nine old master paintings from a European art gallery, we represented insurance underwriters in a fraud claim relating to the art work, and resulting in a successful settlement.

Saudi Arabian contemporary artist in a claim against an auction house and a Dubai based gallery

We represented one of Saudi Arabia's leading contemporary artists in a multi-jurisdictional claim against an auction house and a Dubai based gallery. The claim derived from the unauthorized selling of one of the artist's own artworks by the Dubai gallery at an auction. The matter was successfully settled.

Art lending

We advised on the establishment of a set of precedents for art lending for a leading clearing bank in the United Kingdom.

A major international gallery

We successfully represented a major international gallery in a lawsuit claiming art that it exhibited on behalf of an artist it represented violated the copyright rights of a photographer.

International art lending project

We assisted our client by drafting loan agreements to over 100 museums and institutions both locally and globally and for several renowned New York City museum exhibits.

The return of artworks to the estate of a renowned European artist

We represented the estate of a renowned European contemporary artist in seeking to bring about the return of numerous artworks that had not been returned by a German gallery following the artist's death in the mid-2000s.

Meet the team

We can also help with