FAQs About Legal Counsel For Art Transactions

Why do collectors need to hire legal counsel for art transactions? Global art sales totaled an estimated $50.1 billion in 2020, according to the 2021 Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report. If you're ready to join this group of investors, but not sure where to start, take a look at what you need to know before you hire an art lawyer. 

What Is An Art Lawyer?

Art law is a specialty area of practice that bridges estate, contract, intellectual property, statutory, tax, and other types of law. These lawyers are knowledgeable professionals with extensive experience working in fine art collections. Some art lawyers work on the creator side of the business. These specialists represent artists and help them to navigate contract and copyright-related issues. 

Along with artists, art lawyers also work with sellers and collectors. These legal specialists help to create contracts, review contracts, guide sellers and collectors, provide advice related to federal, state, and other applicable laws, handle disputes, and facilitate transactions. Your lawyer may also help you to understand the tax and estate issues collectors often face. 

Why Would A Collector Need A Lawyer?

You didn't bring a lawyer to the table when you bought your car or most of your other significant purchases. Why would you need legal counsel during an art sale? 

Unlike many other transactions, art collection often involves a complex sales process. You may need to authenticate the artwork before you go any farther into the sale. Authentication helps to reduce your financial risks and helps to verify the provenance of the work. A certificate of authenticity or COA is one way to establish that the artwork is not fake. An attorney can review this document and determine whether you need to take additional steps. If the artwork does not have a COA, an art attorney can advise you on the legalities of the authentication process and review future documents the seller may provide.

The lawyer's job doesn't stop at the authentication. They can help you with the transfer of the title, tax-related issues, and estate planning. If you would like to eventually leave the artwork to a family member as part of your legacy, you will need an art attorney to set up a trust or complete inheritorship documents. 

You may also need legal counsel if you plan to loan the artwork to a museum or gallery. This type of temporary transaction requires legal advice, negotiation, and someone to create contracts or other necessary documents. An attorney can also advise you of your rights and responsibilities related to the loan itself, travel concerns, damage, risks, and the safe return of the artwork.  

Speak to an art lawyer to learn more about these transactions.