Street Artists Win 7-Year Lawsuit; Proof that VARA Works

After seven years, the street artists who sued the owner of the 5Pointz complex finally won their case on the strength of the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act. The big triumph came this week when the US Supreme Court denied the request of 5Pointz owner Gerard Wolkoff of G&M Realty for a reassessment of the February 2018 ruling of the New York judge who ordered Wolkoff to pay $6.75 million fine for destroying the artworks.

Being the highest appeals court of the land, developer Gerard Wolkoff can no longer avoid paying the $6.75 fine to 21 Queens street artists. According to Eric Baum, the lawyer who represented the artists, the Supreme Court’s decision uphold the acceptance of graffitis as works of art, worthy of appreciation and preservation. It cannot be destroyed if it was made with prior permission. Public murals are just as important as the art pieces displayed inside museums and is also protected by the federal law, specifically the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act a.k.a.VARA .

The outcome of the trial brings relief to artists and art lovers alike as it guarantees respect and protection for future graffiti artworks. Although there have been similar cases in the past, the lawsuits filed by artists who fought for their rights, hardly ever made it to a court trial. Mainly because the disputes were resolved privately via extrajudicial settlement.

Background Info about the VARA Case Filed vs. Gerald Wolkoff

This case dates back to 2002 when Gerald “Jerry” Wolkoff, a developer and owner of the warehouse that was later called 5Points, gave Jonathan Cohen permission to use as space for street art exhibits. Located in Queens, New York City, Cohen, had transformed the 200,000 square foot building complex into an art space and renamed it “5Pointz.” The arrangement lasted for a decade as the space had gained fame; whilst attracting lots of locals, artists and tourists.

In 2013, Wolkoff gave notice to Cohen and other artists about his intention of demolishing the warehouse complex to make way for his plans of turning the space into a rental complex. Wolkoff obtained a permit from the City Planning Commision(CPC) while he gave the artists 4 months to vacate 5Pointz. .

This led Cohen and other artists to file for a restraining order based on the provisions of VARA. Although the artists were able to obtain restraining orders twice, the last judge who decided on the artist’s third petition for a restraining order denied their request. Since the restraining order was lifted, Wolkoff immediately had the premises whitewashed without notifying Cohen and his group, and as a result had effectively destroyed the graffiti artworks.

Subsequently the group filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District NY Court and won the case. The EDNY judge ordered Wolkoff to pay the artists $6.75 million in fines. Although, Wolkoff’s lawyers subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration with the U.S. Appeals Court, the said court later came out with a decision in February 2020 upholding the NY federal judge’s ruling.

February 20, 2020 has been marked in legal art history as the day that street art was affirmed as “a major category of contemporary art. The affirmation was strengthened by the Supreme Court’s ruling Last October 07, 2020 when it denied Wolkoff lawyers a chance to appeal the long-standing case.

Horses as Art Subjects : Proofs of Mankind’s High Regard for Equine Strength and Beauty

Horses as subjects of artworks prove that humans, even from primitive periods, have been artistically inspired to depict the beauty and strength of the animals. The horse paintings found in the prehistoric caves in Lascaux, France show that as far back as 15,000 years ago, some kind of special relationship between horses and humans had awakened man’s natural artistic inclinations.

As mankind advanced into early civilizations, the numerous artefacts unearthed by archaeologists provided more depictions that show how horses were held with high esteem; often as formidable companions to people of wealth and power.

Apparently, future (space age?) historians centuries from now, will have a wealth of comprehensive and well-documented information about men and horses during the 21st century. When it comes to gathering information about horses, future researchers will also get to know many great horses by their names, particularly those heralded as champions of important horse racing events.

Today, artworks of horses abound not only as drawings, paintings and sculptures but also as high definition, life-like photographs that capture both equine strength and tender spirit complemented by a splendor of silky furs, fluffy tails and manes. There are also regular horse racing news that serve as great sources of relevant horse information, where up to date stories of race feats have inspired many artists to feature race horses as subjects of their artworks. .

The Prehistoric Paintings in the Lascaux Caves in France

The paleolithic or stone age drawings in the famous Lascaux Caves in France are considered as the oldest paintings in the world. Cave dwellers did not just stone-etch the images on the hard walls of the cave. They also painted their etched drawings with pigments obtained from oxidized minerals, such as the reddish color of iron oxide.

Studies of the paintings revealed that aside from using fingers, the stone age artists had used fur or moss to extract and apply the pigments. There are also indications that the world’s earliest artists made use of hollow bones to blow and apply the pigments, which scientific researchers perceive as akin to the modern spray-painting technique.

Of the more than 600 animals painted on the walls of the well-preserved Lascaux Caves, the unknown artists of the paleolithic age had painted as many as over a hundred likenesses of horses.

Migration of Auctions to Online Art Market Yielding Unexpected Success

While the COVID-19 pandemic had brought disruptions to the art world, galleries simply went on and moved their auctions online and with unexpected success. Art fairs, as well have gone digital becoming fully aware that audiences are using technology and going online.

In 2019, Art Basel’s UBS Report showed sales of the online art market was only nine (9%) of the $64 billion of the global sales that transpired in the overall art market. Art Basel Director Marc Spiegler said that galleries have been forced to think of ways on how to digitally promote their online programs digitally, are now inclined to continue; by taking advantage of presenting studio visits with artists online, or by having web-based viewing rooms.

That being the case, Mr. Spiegel foresees that even if on-site galley visits return, galleries will continue to move forward with digital promotion.

Sotheby’s, Nicole Schloss, co-head of the New York contemporary art day auctions reported that with the expansion of viewing rooms at online galleries, they were able to drive traffic for live and online bidding at the Sotheby website.

Sotheby Moved Online with Results Going from Promising to Astounding

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown in March, Sotheby’s 20th Century Design co-worldwide head Jodi Pollack, decided to move their mid-season sale online. The strategy yielded results beyond their expectation, garnering total sales of $4 million, the highest ever online sales achieved by 20th Century Design. Apparently, this provides the stimulus to migrate online, and accelerated promotions even amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

What ended up happening was better than they expected: the sale amounted to $4 million, the highest-ever total for an online sale of 20th-century design, aside from having retained patronage in the usual geographic location, comprising bidders from about 31 countries, the 20th Century Design auction had attracted 29 new first-time buyers, including some doing business with Sotheby’s for the first time.

Moving forward in April, Sotheby’ overall online sales took in some $36 million, which the company reported was more than double the amount they achieved as online sales in 2019.

Last May 15, Sotheby’s marked another milestone as their total online sales to date has surpassed the $100 million mark. This time, the record more than doubled any record set by any auction company for online sales.

Inigo Philbrick: Elite Art Swindler At Large

Recent art world news carried stories about an elite secondary market art trader named Inigo Philbrick, who scammed several savvy art dealers.

How Inigo Philbrick Rose to Become a Prominent Figure in the Art World

A secondary market, art trader can be anyone, an art collector, an art dealer or a representative of an art business. In his case, Inigo Philbrick is both an art dealer and a representative of an art business known as Modern Collections. The latter is a London-based secondary market art dealership company founded and owned by prominent London art dealer and gallerist, Jeremy Michael “Jay” Jopling.

Now Jay Jopling also founded and owns White Cube Gallery, one of London’s prestigious galleries, and where Inigo Philbrick landed work as an intern at the age of 23. Somehow, the young Philbrick was able to rise quickly from the ranks, fast enough to be chosen by Jopling as head of his new secondary market dealership firm, the Modern Collections.

According to Jopling,

”Philbrick impressed me as smart and ambitious young man who has a good eye for art and at the same time possesses a remarkable commercial sense.”

Little did Jay Jopling know that his young protege was too smart and too ambitious for Jopling’s own good. Apparently, Philbrick found a loophole in the way second hand market dealers make a profit in their art trading activities: by way of shell companies. The system enabled Philbrick to buy and sell of previously owned art pieces, but without attributing the transactions either to Modern Collections or to White Cube.

Apparently, Philbrick’s scam also involved using shell corporations.

The Scams of Inigo Philbrick in a Nutshell

After getting himself appointed as the head of Modern Collections, Philbrick soon became an ever present figure in prestigious art events and auctions, particularly during VIP opening days. In 2018, the seemingly successful art dealer from London acquired a 7-year lease in Miami’s Design District to start his own art dealership business.

However, a year later, Philbrick vanished, leaving behind a trail of multiple lawsuits in London, New York City and Miami. They were filed by sophisticated art collectors and dealers, all claiming ownership over the same artworks, including Jay Jopling. Apparently, Jopling’s protege had been into selling single art pieces to multiple clients. In other cases, he is being sued for not delivering artworks he had pledged as collateral for multi million-dollar loans.

Other claimants are disgruntled art dealers who partnered with Philbrick in buying and selling secondary market artworks, but never received their share of the profit; nor able to acquire ownership of the objects in question. Simply because Philbrick likewise promised or sold them to several dealers and clients. Soon enough, when Philbrick started defaulting on those loans, it became clear that other collectors and/or dealers had been duped into buying the same art items.

According to reports in the art world, so far, only four (4) including Jopling, have succeeded in filing an injunction that would enable them to recover their losses by seizing Philbrick’s personal and business assets. The amounts of which have been pegged at $70 million and $150 million, respectively.

National Gallery London Reveals Alastair Adams’ Oil Portrait of Tony Blair in a Post PM Pose

The National Gallery of London recently revealed a new oil portrait of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, otherwise known as Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007.

The Gallery had commissioned Alastair Adams, the president and a highly reputed member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RSPP), to complete a number of artworks featuring Tony Blair. The oil portrait the Gallery unveiled, will hang in the National Portrait Gallery, to form part of the house’s collection of portraits of all former British Prime Ministers.

Although former PM Blair’s photographs already hang in the National Gallery, including the Jonathan Yeo portrait displayed in the Great Hall of London, Alastair Adams’ Tony Blair oil painting is the first since the former PM resigned from office; aside from being the first Tony Blair painted portrait added to the museum’s National Portrait Gallery.

Alastair Adams Captured PM Blair’s Uncompromising Gaze as a World Leader

In a four by three feet oil painting, Alastair Adams presents a dramatic close-up of the former UK Prime Minister, who is best remembered for initiating various public sector reforms, negotiating the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement, as well as for UK’s highly controversial involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Contemporary Curator of the National Portrait Gallery, Sarah Howgate, remarked that Mr. Blair’s direct gaze in the portrait is uncompromising; reflecting his commendable skill as an effective negotiator on the global stage. Ms. Howgate takes pride in commenting that

”The Gallery, through Alastair Adams’ skill as a Royal Portrait Painter, is now able to present Tony Blair by way of a portrait consonant with the personality of a person who has considerably shaped the political, cultural and economic climate of Great Britain”

At first, the former UK-PM notoriously refused to sit for a painting session after he stepped down from a position that only he, had occupied for the longest term in the history of British politics. In the spring of 2011 the Ex-Prime Minister eventually relented, and agreed to sit for Alastair Adams in his Buckinghamshire home; sans a tie and without his trademark mug of tea.

Smartify Your Mobile Phone to Access Info on Museum and Art Gallery Collections

As art museums and galleries across the globe digitally compiled information about their collections, a company called Smartify CIC created an application that allows users to access them through a database.

Now you don’t have to just stand and visually appreciate museum art works in different galleries located in some parts of the U.S. the U.K. and European countries. Rather than just stare and wonder whose hands are behind the artwork and what inspired him or her to create a masterpiece, installing a Smartify app will furnish you all those information and more.

Awesome even is that you can install the Smartify app free of charge.

Smartify users can even scan and save images to build a personal digital collection of all the favorite paintings, sculptures and gallery pieces they have seen. That way, they can share not just images but also related facts, audio commentaries and artwork interpretations; allowing better appreciation of the impressive artworks viewed up close during their travels.

List of Museums to Which Smartify can Connect

When visiting art galleries and museums in the U.S. UK and European countries like Amsterdam, Russia, Germany, Greece, and Italy or even in Singapore, Smartify can connect with the following institutions:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art NY
The Met Cloisters NY
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Museum of Art LA
Laguna Art Museum LA
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Washington DC
Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Gallery of Arts Washington DC
Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago
Nelson-Atkins Museum of.Art Kansas City
Shangri La Museum Honolulu
The Mint Museum Charlotte, North Carolina
National Gallery London
Sculpture in the City London
Guildhall Art Gallery London
British Library London
House of St, Barnabas London
National Portrait Gallery London
Royal Academy of Arts London
The Wallace Collection London
Ben Uri Gallery London
Saatchi Gallery London
Tate Britain London
Royal Academy of Arts London
Waddesdon Manor Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire, England
Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art Middlesbrough, England
The Lowry Manchester, England
The Bowes Museum Barnard Castle, Teesdale England
Turner Contemporary Margate Kent. England
The National Library of Wales Aberystwyth
Kelvingrove Art Gallery Glasgow, Scotland
The Louvre Paris
Spray Collection Paris
Rijksmuseum Twenthe Enschede, Netherlands
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Foam Amsterdam
Mauritshuis The Hague, Netherlands
Museo Correr Venice, Italy
Madre Museo d’arte Contemporanea Donnaregina Naples, Italy
The State Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg, Russia
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia
Urban Nation Berlin, Germany
EMST National Museum of Contemporary Arts, Athens Greece
Hepta Art Gallery Tehran, Iran
Indian Heritage Center Singapore

How Smartify Works

  • Allow the Smartify app to capture an image of an art piece by pointing and focusing your phone camera on the object. As the app gets to recognize the captured display, swiping left will show every information about the artpiece, as collected and recorded by the museum.
  • A swipe to the right will reveal the name and relevant information about the artist.
  • Scrolling down activates the audio commentary along with additional information provided through the app’s link with Wikimedia.
  • To get a closer view of a particular gallery display, pinch the screen to zoom in and out.
  • In case you want to save an image, tapping the “Heart” icon at the upper right corner will allow you to store it in your phone’s image gallery.
  • Manage your image collections by creating a file that you can edit and customise via the Profile page.

Toxic Philanthropists : The Do-Gooders Who Mask Their Misdeeds by Way of Donations

The term “toxic philanthropy” has once again surfaced as several artists made a show of support to activists calling for the resignation of “Warren Kanders”. Eight artists whose works are on exhibit or supposed to have gone on exhibit at the ongoing Whitney Biennial, withdrew their artwork.

 

They did so after learning that the reason why Warren Kanders is being asked to resign from the museum board, is because he made his fortune by being chief executive to the tear gas maker Safariland. The brand of tear gas being used on refugees seeking asylum in different borders, including those entering the U.S. Mexico Border.

 

They are also called “philanthrocapitalists” who take form as wealthy do-gooders claiming to change the world and speak reverently of global poverty, but rarely examine how their business is contributing to poverty and inequality.

Another Example of Toxic Philanthropy: Sackler Family of Purdue Pharma

 

 

The Sackler family name linked to the Sackler Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has recently been taken down in several museums and other institutions. This was after art activists launched month-long protests over the acceptance of dirty money coming from toxic philanthropists as funding support for galleries.

The protest actions came about when word spread out that the Sackler family is the owner of Pharma Purdue, manufacturer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin. The problem with OxyContin was that Purdue Pharma did not disclose the addictive ingredient, which spurred the so-called opioid crisis. Doctors prescribed OxyContin as painkillers to hundred of patients, many of whom become drug addicts and at worse, died.

 

Since the Sackler family is well-known as philanthropists and benefactors of arts, lawyers were able to keep the family name from being dragged to court, and by entering into out-of-court settlements.

French Art Works Auctioneer Collects €41.3m from Sale of Aristophil Collections

French auction house Claude Aguttes SAS, one of four auction houses assigned by France’s Tribunal de Commerce (Commercial Court), reported that up to April 15 of this year, as much as €41.3 million in revenues have been realized from auction sales of the Aristophil Collection. Claude Aguttes’ designation as auction house for the said collection was in line with the Tribunal de Commerce’s handling of the receivership and liquidation of the scandal-ridden and bankrupt Aristophil company.

However, the €41.3 million revenue achieved by the Claude Aguttes SAS, auction house, plus the more than €140 million cash and assets sequestered from the Aristophil company and from the Lhéritier family, is still a long way off from the €850 million collected from Aristophil investors. When the investment scheme came under investigation in 2015, it was unraveled as an organized fraud that promised overstated returns on an investment product that was not as highly lucrative as it was purported to be.

What was the Aristophil Company’s Investment Scheme?

The Aristophil Company was an entity founded in 1990 by Gérard Lhéritier, a former insurance broker. Lhéritier cooked up an investment scheme by enticing people to expend money to be used in buying, and then selling precious documents and historical manuscripts. Through the Aristophil company, Lhéritier promised investors that the money they contributed will earn as much as eight percent (8%) per annum.

In fact, the Aristophil company even opened a small museum and named it Musée des Arts et des Lettres, displaying about 130,000 precious documents, which soon drew attention and attracted more investors. The museum held a rich collection, including manuscripts produced by the likes of Victor Hugo, Proust, Balzac, of the Marquise de Sade, and even by American President John F. Kennedy. Investors were assured therefore that the money they contributed were being properly invested, which all the more made them sure that they made a wise investment.

As it turned out though, Aristophil was paying returns on investments using fresh funds collected from new investors to the scheme. Similar to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scam, the fraudulent set up collapsed when the company was no longer successful in enticing new clients. The company’s subsequent bankruptcy led to the investigation of how the Aristophil company operated.

In March 2015, Gérard Lhéritier was found guilty of deceptive marketing methods, breach of trust, organized fraud, misuse of corporate assets, presentation of unfaithful accounts, and money laundering, Aristophil company was immediately placed under receivership in February 2015, and later into liquidation in August, 2015.