An Angry Print Buyer Files Suit Against Louis Vuitton and MOCA
In what may be a sign of the future of the art market, where exponential growth leads to class action lawsuits, it turns out that Halsey Minor wasn’t the first person to think of using a class-action suit to resolve an art deal dispute. Portfolio tells a breathless story about Clint Arthur (left, in a photo by Dave Lauridsen), an LA buyer of a Takashi Murakami print, who got a limited-edition work without a number:
The discrepancy was “a translation problem between Louis Vuitton and Takashi Murakami,” Arthur says a salesclerk told him. But when Arthur wrote Murakami asking that the proper numbers be added, he received an answer from the legal department of Louis Vuitton North America. If Arthur was dissatisfied with his purchase, the letter said, he could return the artwork and be refunded his money plus interest.
But Arthur wanted to keep the pieces and have them numbered. Surfing the internet, he discovered a California law stating that dealers who willfully provide certificates of authenticity that contain incorrect information are liable for damages that total three times the cost of the print. He filed a class-action lawsuit against Vuitton, arguing that the company intentionally tried to pass off faulty documentation. While he was at it, Arthur slapped MOCA with a suit charging that the museum breached the same statute by selling Murakami prints without certificates in its gift shop.
Some in the art business also raise the question of why Murakami, an experienced artist, wouldn’t number the prints. It’s not clear whether he left off the numbers by accident, whether he planned to make more of the prints and didn’t intend for Vuitton to sell them as numbered pieces, or if Vuitton produced the certificates without his knowledge. (Vuitton, like the salesclerk, says it was a translation issue. Murakami declined to comment.) [ . . . ] At the very least, it seems, the company figured out that something was wrong somewhere along the line. When the Murakami show and the Vuitton boutique moved to the Brooklyn Museum in April—before Arthur’s lawsuit was filed—the certificates of authenticity had been edited and the promise of a numbered print deleted. For the show’s October move to the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, there will be no Vuitton boutique at all.
Repro Man (Portfolio)