Don't blame the lawyers


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This article is taken from Paul Howcroft’s blog Art Law London.

Certain vested interests like to blame lawyers, or their clients, for litigation. As if it’s unjust to get redress for wrongs suffered or contracts breached.

In recent months a number of authentication committees have decided to disband because of the perceived risk of claims arising from their work. One, the Warhol Foundation, has been through the mill in defending itself from anti-trust claims brought by a collector who claimed that authenticity was being denied to maintain high prices. More obvious potential claims would be for getting the authenticity wrong, or misdating where the date can affect the value.

But are authenticity certificates that important, at least for someone buying a work? Having a certificate must be better than not, unless and until it is shown to be wrong or false, when authenticity of the work is then put into question. Many are not issued by formal committees or foundations associated with the artist’s studio or estate, but by experts and lesser beings. They may or may not be worth having, but a seller should produce the certificate, whilst not warranting its content.

However, if a certificate is issued or refused improperly, or falsely created, or wrongfully produced, and that causes an innocent party to lose money, then someone deserves to be sued, but I suppose we all have our vested interests in this debate.

Paul Howcroft, Partner, Fladgate LLP (phowcroft@fladgate.com)

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