Art & Museum Law

ZAG-S&W’s Art & Museum Law group brings together lawyers with deep knowledge of the unique opportunities and challenges facing museums, artists, collectors, and other institutions devoted to the arts.

We represent museums and collectors with de-accessioning and sales/use tax on artwork that is on loan. We represent individual authors, musicians and music producers in negotiating publishing contracts and protecting their intellectual property rights. We also advise start-up companies in relation to rights clearance issues with website content and the use of third-party content, as well as domain name registrations, ownership disputes, and infringement matters.

ZAG-S&W lawyers have consulted with European museums about restitution claims and Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act issues. High profile matters include the representation of plaintiffs seeking restitution of the Guelph Treasure, sold under duress by Jewish art dealers in 1935 to the Prussian government. We also advised a New York art dealer in litigation involving claims for restitution of artwork allegedly stolen during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II.

This pipeline of high-profile matters owes much to the quality of our team, which include a Best Lawyers’ “Boston Non-Profit/Charities Lawyer of the Year;” a former curatorial professional responsible for exhibition work and compliance with Association of Art Museum Directors provenance directives; seasoned intellectual property litigators; and many others.

  • Lead counsel to plaintiffs seeking restitution of the Guelph Treasure, sold under duress by Jewish art dealers in 1935 to the Prussian government, the first case in which a U.S. court has found jurisdiction over a German state museum for claims to allegedly Nazi-looted art. Upheld on appeal in Philipp v. F.R.G., 894 F.3d 406 (D.C. Cir. 2018)
  • Counsel for heirs of renowned Berlin art dealer Alfred Flechtheim in investigation and recovery of art looted by the Nazis from the Galerie Flechtheim
  • Represent members of the Berkshire Museum in litigation concerning proposed sale of 40 works of art to fund museum operations
  • Served as lead counsel to Artmentum GmbH in widely publicized $204 million lawsuit over sale of a fine art collection, won motion to dismiss all claims in Art Assure Ltd., LLC v. Artmentum GmbH et al., Case No. 1:14-cv-03757 (LGS) (S.D.N.Y.)
  • Represented a New York art dealer in litigation involving claims for restitution of artworks alleged to have been stolen during the Nazi occupation of France. Obtained complete dismissal of all claims against client. Meyer v. University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, et al., Case No. 1:13-cv-3128 (CM)
  • Obtaining First Amendment related dismissals for speech and governance related cases
  • Advising museums and collectors concerning de-accessioning
  • Representing individuals in connection with the protection of their intellectual property rights and in negotiations with corporate sellers of their product
  • Assisting a tax-exempt organization in developing a licensing program and protecting related trademarks
  • Representing artists, authors, musicians and music producers in the negotiation of consignment, sales, and publishing contracts
  • Advising start-up companies with respect to rights clearance issues with website content and use of third-party content on the website
  • Advising clients with respect to domain name registrations, resolving domain name ownership disputes, and challenging domain name registrations that infringe client trademarks
  • Conducting nationwide intellectual property protection and enforcement programs, and handling related litigation, on behalf of, among others, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and their licensing entities, as well as Comedy Partners (South Park), and NCP Marketing Group, Inc. (Tae Bo)
  • Defending an apparel distributor and various national and regional department store chains in connection with trademark and copyright infringement suit brought by a belt designer
  • Serving as outside general counsel to direct marketing companies, with responsibilities including day-to-day handling of all licensing, distribution and telemarketing-related agreements and principal responsibility for handling all litigation and arbitrations, including defense of class action lawsuit
  • Advising on avoiding unrelated business taxable income, including regarding gift shops, museum restaurants, corporate sponsorships, affinity credit cards and mailing lists
  • Advising on the application of sales/use tax to art work loaned to a museum
  • Negotiating settlement of use tax due on art work purchased out-of-state
  • Representing a charitable trust before highest state court and in negotiations with state Attorney General for termination of charitable trust and distribution of assets to charitable organization
  • Structuring charitable foundations and trusts for maximum tax advantage

Art Law Report

Sullivan & Worcester's Art Law Report blog provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities.

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