Will the Cowles-Gagosian Suit End in Regulation for the Art Market?

Aaron Gell’s summation of Larry Gagosian’s situation—prominent defections, watershed lawsuits and the sense that he’s sold everything that’s already not nailed down—also contains this very interesting take on the repercussions of the Jan Cowles case.

Gell enlisted Thomas Danziger, a prominent art lawyer, to comment on the widely held perception expressed succinctly by Gagosian that he neither represents the buyer nor the seller in a transaction but is an agent for “the deal.”

Fiduciary duty is “not well [enough] understood” in the art trade, Mr. Danziger said. “Larry Gagosian’s view as expressed in the deposition might even be the majority view among art dealers, which is that they are representing ‘the deal.’ In point of fact and under New York agency law, you cannot represent both parties on the same transaction unless there is full and informed consent, and that is clearly what has been missing in a lot of transactions we’ve been reading about.”

Whatever the outcome of the Cowles and Perelman suits, many think change is long overdue. “People are going to have to be regulated,” the art adviser said. “More transparency may just be what everybody needs. Then again, maybe if you regulate the art world, it will fall apart.”

“A lot of people think this is the end of the art world as we know it,” the consultant agreed.

Regulation is bandied about a lot in the art world without a real sense of what form that regulation would take or how it would be administered.

There’s a lot more than this brief section in the story. Though much of it dwells on the now-familiar Cowles case and, naturally, the spate of recent artist defections. On that note, Gell does ask the most relevant question: are high-volume artists leaving Gagosian because he’s already maxed out his gigantic client base’s appetite?

Deconstructing Larry: Defections and Lawsuits Chip Gagosian’s Enamel (Observer)