Art and cultural institutions

Buying, selling and viewing art is one of life's great pleasures. But it is also a sophisticated business that requires the very best legal advice.

We advise 40% of the 200 top art dealers listed in ARTnews Top Collectors publication, as well as many of the world’s leading collectors. We have been involved in a number of the highest profile matters of recent times including the controversial “Canyon” case and the Richard Prince litigation. We work with international galleries and museums. Working for many of the most successful people and cultural institutions in the world means much of what we do is confidential. But it’s fair to say that our connections among our client base provide us with sector expertise that is unmatched by most other law firms.

Protecting your success

We are the largest law firm in the world championing the interests of successful individuals and families. Whether you are deal making, tax planning or fighting to protect your investment, we have the right lawyers around the world to help. Art law partner Diana Wierbicki is listed by artnetnews as one of the world’s most highly-influential art lawyers focusing on structuring transactions, while Dean Nicyper on the litigation side has advised on the two biggest art fraud cases in the past decade and helps one of two largest art auction houses in dozens of lawsuits concerning authenticity and the purchase, loaning and movement of art. Celia Lloyd Davidson in the UK has a reputation for her specialist knowledge of the creative sector; she works closely with many leading commercial galleries, museums and artists. Her focus is intellectual property and commercial advice which covers a wide range of issues, from acquisitions and loans to archive management, copyright issues, curation, commissions and collaborations.She is ranked in the art and cultural property section of Legal 500 2017 which says: Celia Lloyd Davidson is ‘very alert to the commercial realities of each situation’. On the litigation side in London, Eleni Polycarpou has over 10 years’ experience of dealing with all kinds of art related disputes both in litigation and in arbitration, including two of the most well-known stolen art cases and restitution cases plus all kinds of title, authenticity and consignment disputes acting for collectors, artists, art galleries, art insurers, dealers and auctioneers. She has been ranked in the legal 500 directory for art and cultural property for the last 3 years. The 2017 listing says, “Eleni Polycarpou who heads the art litigation team, is ‘an excellent litigator to have on your side and is relentless in pursuing her clients’ best interests’;

Art meets fashion

The lines between art and fashion have always been blurred but arguably never more so than today. As the law firm for successful people, fashion is a major area of work for us and we’ve worked on some of the world’s ultimate collaborations between high fashion and art.

Cultural institutions

We have a long history of representing museums, libraries and other important cultural assets. Our in-depth understanding of the legal issues faced in this specialist area is enhanced by many of our lawyers serving or having served on various boards of directors, as in-house counsel and trustee.

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Ways the art industry intersects with other industries.

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Manage your dispute, in private

Very few people want to drag their companies, families and personal lives though the courts or the media.

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We’ve used Withers for new leases and property-related disputes in London and their wider art team for issues involving international art transactions, and they have always delivered excellent advice.  The team is deeply immersed in the art world, and their advice always reflects this.

Warren Miro - Victoria Miro Gallery

Withers have represented us and our clients, both insurers and collectors, on major and complex cases, all successfully resolved, and are our lead London lawyers.

Julian Radcliffe, Chairman - Art Loss Register

Clients at Withers LLP include Blenheim Palace, The Fine Art Fund and a raft of well-known galleries. The firm has considerable cross-border knowledge and fields specialist art lawyers in three continents. In London, Eleni Polycarpou is ‘highly respected within the sector’ and Simon Chadwick is noted for his ‘outstanding attention to detail’.

Legal 500 2016

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Leading firm for art and cultural property

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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.

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.

Institute of Contemporary Arts

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

Los Angeles-based museums

We advised a US museum concerning the structure and receipt of complex gifts.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

National Arts Council

Advising the National Arts Council on the $180m redevelopment project of Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Employment visas and green cards

We routinely represent individuals of extraordinary ability in business, sciences and art in obtaining employment visas and green cards.

Revolving demand loan secured by artwork

Advised an international bank on a revolving demand loan secured by artwork to an individual borrower. This is the Bank's first loan of this kind in Asia. We drafted the loan agreement and all security documents.

Prominent New York historical museum

Provided ongoing pro-bono work for a prominent New York historical museum.

Estate of renowned European contemporary artist

Withers 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-2000's.

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