On Calls for Less Secrecy in the Art Market

by Art Fag City on April 29, 2010 Newswire

Art fag city, secret handshakes

The Art Newspaper says the The $8m court case between Miami collector Craig Robins and New York art dealer David Zwirner is drawing calls for less secrecy in the art world. Robins is suing Zwirner for telling Marlene Dumas that he sold her 1994 painting Reinhardt's Daughter on Robins' behalf after agreeing not to. The alleged breach of confidentiality landed Robins on Dumas’ “blacklist”, preventing him from buying any Dumas works on the primary market.

There’s a fair amount of he said she said to this case seeing as how the agreement was oral. These kinds of disputes are exactly the reason I think a little more paperwork wouldn’t hurt the art world. As Edward Winkleman notes, “If collectors' resales did not carry a stigma, if artists benefited from the resales, and if galleries were not placed in a precarious position between two clients—the artist and the collector—the lawyers who are now going to make a small fortune off this case would be busy with more important matters.”

Since California artists do benefit from resales, the case begs the question: Would this court battle have occurred if the Zwirner was located in that state?

Meanwhile, Gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac offers the most unintentionally ironic statement of the day, “The fluidity of our system has its positive sides.” Revealing that his gallery does not have written contracts with its artists, he said: “Generally the handshake mentality works pretty well. It would be a pity to lose it—no one wants to feel like they are run by lawyers.”

I wonder how David Zwirner feels about that right now.

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