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Episode description:

In this episode of ‘Law, disrupted,’ John is joined by Luke Nikas, partner in Quinn Emanuel’s New York office. Luke is widely recognized as one of the top lawyers in the US and has been selected as a Law360 MVP, is Band 1 rated in Chambers, and has been named among Lawdragon’s 500 Leading Lawyers in America. He is also co-chair of the firm’s Art Litigation and Disputes Practice and probably has the world’s most prominent and successful art litigation practice. Together, they discuss the intersection between art, the law, and art disputes more generally.

The conversation begins with John asking Luke whether there is such a thing as “art law” – Luke notes that there is such a thing—there are specific, narrow statutes that touch on art but for the most part, art law is a composite of several other areas of law that might apply to any dispute. Most art law cases concern legal principles, such as contracts, intellectual property, fiduciary duty and the like, which happen to arise in the context of a dispute involving art.

Together, they discuss the Knoedler Art Gallery case that was litigated from about 2011-2018 – a lawsuit that involved what Luke describes as “one of the most prominent art galleries in the world” before it closed. Luke represented the President of the gallery, and a film was made about the episode. They emphasize the legal and factual issues that surround authenticity disputes.

They move on to discuss copyright and fair use matters, including the importance of a copyright case involving Andy Warhol’s work, presently pending before the United States Supreme Court. These types of cases raise important issues about what material we’re trying to protect and why, and how we can develop judicially manageable standards to resolve fair use disputes when the decision-makers are not visual art experts. For example, when evaluating two artworks in a copyright infringement case, what weight do we place on the meaning, message, and visual appearances of the works at issue?

John and Luke also examine the relationship between collectors, dealers, gallerists and art advisors. These relationships can create obligations and expectations between parties that translate into fiduciary and other legal duties that the gallery or advisor wasn’t anticipating. Luke discusses how to protect against these situations so that everyone involved has a clear understanding of the scope of the relationship.

Published: Oct 20 2022

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