Daniel Grant has a brief story in the Wall Street Journal recapitulating a series of lawsuits between individuals and appraisers or art dealers over the issue of fraud. The most extreme version of these suits may be the one currently pending between the one-time owners of the recently “discovered” Leonardo work who feel Christie’s should have known that the painting was a Leonardo even if the rest of the world did not.
Grant comes to this interesting conclusion based on more than one case where disappointed buyers were again disappointed when the courts didn’t support their claims:
Especially pertinent in this kind of fraud lawsuit is the issue of who sets the price. Carl and Anne Rice of Tucson, Ariz., bought two paintings by Martin Johnson Heade at a local estate sale for $88 in 1996, and later sold the works at Christie’s auction house in New York for more than $1 million. They were then sued by the estate in 1998. The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in the Rices’ favor, since the price for the paintings in the estate sale had been set by the sellers or their representatives.
In other words, let the seller beware.
Why You Can’t Always Trust Art Dealers (Wall Street Journal)