Art

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. 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 listed as a leading individual by various legal directories for her expertise in this sector, with 2020 guides stating that ‘Eleni Polycarpou is an exceptional litigation solicitor – immensely experienced and very knowledgeable in this quite specialist field. Apart from anything else, she is a considerate person, with great client management skills’. Simon Chadwick, a litigation associate in London, is also recognised as a rising star in art law and previously worked for an Italian commercial art dealership in Mayfair and Milan. This experience and understanding of the market has proved invaluable when advising individuals, galleries and institutions on both contentious and non-contentious art matters.

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 institutions. 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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Parallels

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
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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
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Esteemed global practice with the ability to provide comprehensive cross-border advice on all art-related matters. Offers in-depth expertise on the worldwide art market and regularly advises high-profile collectors, public bodies and international institutions.

Chambers and Partners UK, 2020
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The team works seamlessly across offices and jurisdictions.

Legal 500 UK, 2020
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They are a very international firm and an important presence among art intermediates.

Chambers and Partners UK, 2020
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They handle large acquisitions and are good on big transactions…they can do this work for a global client base.

Chambers and Partners HNW, 2019
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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

28 November 2019 - Events

Protecting Family Wealth


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Ranked for art and cultural property law

Leading firm for art and cultural property

Ranked for art and cultural property law

Leading firm for art and cultural property

Meet the team

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Esperienza

Division of £500million art collection for private collector

During divorce proceedings, we advised an art collector with respect to the division of his £500million art collection. Matters covered included the adequate preservation of retained art works, the disposal of those works neither wished to retain, as well as inter-jurisdictional tax-related issues of import and export.

Favourable settlement for a London art dealer

We secured a favourable settlement for a London-based art dealer regarding a potential fraudulent misrepresentation claim against a New York dealer, who co-owned a sculpture by Franz West with our client. Our client learnt that the true purchase price had only been a fraction of what his co-owner had disclosed to him, leading our client to pay an unjustified additional sum of money.

Dispute over consigned modern bronze statue

We advised an art collector who was jointly sued with Sotheby's by a buyer and his representative. The claimants sought the rescission of the sale agreement, the return of the purchase price and/ or damages for the loss suffered on the grounds of the statue being a posthumous rather than lifetime cast. We secured a settlement for our client and in the end the parties settled on amicable terms.

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.

Claim for the full recovery of the value of a damaged sculpture

We advise a London gallery in relation to a claim against their storage company for breach of contractual, common law and tortious duties, following the damage of a multimedia sculpture whilst in the storage company's possession. The dispute is centred on whether the storage company's terms and conditions were validly incorporated in the contractual relationship between the parties.

Defending a damages claim for conversion

We are defending an auction house in relation to a claim for conversion brought by a gallery's insurers. The insurers argue that the catalogue description of a 19th century sculpture sold at auction in 2015 matched the records of a stolen sculpture from their client's gallery, and are thus seeking damages equal to the amount they paid to the gallery when the sculpture was stolen.

Estates, art and inheritance tax implications

We advise the executors and beneficiaries of estates on the tax implications of legacies to charity. We recently obtained valuations of a painting already left under a will to a gallery in order to assess the size of the additional cash legacy which would need to be paid to charity to enable the estate to qualify for the reduced inheritance tax rate of 36%- which applies when 10% of an estate is left to charity. The reduced inheritance tax can be of benefit to the chargeable residuary beneficiaries.

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