Throughout art history, disputes have arisen over the works of artists after they have died: who owns what works, who inherits, who owns copyright and related merchandising rights, and whether artists’ wishes must be respected when they ask for their works to be kept together as a collection.

These pieces examine some celebrated wrangles that have arisen over the decades: the Rothko Estate (1976); the legacy of Charles Tunnicliffe, the ornithological artist (1984); the Warhol Foundation (1994); the Dali Estate (2001); and Francis Bacon’s legacy (2002).

Consistent themes and issues emerge for artists who care what will happen to their works after death.  For example, making a will and taking independent expert advice before doing so; choosing executors – especially ones who have nothing to gain from the Estate; ensuring that unsold works and personal archive material are carefully catalogued well before death; and taking particular care to decide on the possible merchandising of their images during the 70 years of their copyright remaining after their death.

Suing Art Experts

Last month’s consideration of art after death suggested that artists might adopt straightforward and sensible practices to authenticate and inventorise their works, to avoid difficulty and complicatio …

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Death of an Artist

Artistic legacies emerged as a theme in art news reports towards the end of 2013. For example, UK courts ruled that drawings sold as Francis Bacons were inauthentic, and US court documents revealed th …

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The Bacon Estate (1)

The new year ushered in several important judicial decisions dealing with artlaw matters, including the Bacon Estate; the Sotheby’s and Christie’s so-called ‘price-fixing’ case; payments to artists of …

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Attribution of Authorship: Warhol

On 15 January 2010 another federal lawsuit was filed in New York City against The Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board. The first lawsuit was filed in 2007 by a London-based collector, Joe Simon; the …

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The Dali Wrangle

Salvador Dali, a master of Surrealism died in 1989. A dozen or so years later his legacy has caused substantial legal problems of an equally surrealist nature. The litigants are the Gala-Salvador Dali …

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Posthumous Artworks

Blinky Palermo’s reputation was given a major boost through retrospective exhibitions in Barcelona and at London’s Serpentine Gallery in 2003. This, in turn, has led to funding recently being achieved …

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The Bacon Estate (2)

On February 6, 2002, the High Court in London dismissed the claims brought by Brian Clarke against the Marlborough Gallery, on behalf of the Estate of Francis Bacon, who had decided not to pursue the …

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Rothko Revisited

There occurred in Sandy, London, Cardiff and Anglesey last month an important event for the visual arts which went largely unnoticed. That brief statement – rather like the ‘Who, When, Where, Why?’ ne …

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Who cares about art after death?

Turner did: Rothko did. But apart from that question, the Rothko case raises an equally serious and more practical question for artists: how to ensure that their art is dealt with, after death, accord …

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The Rothko Wrangle

ONE A tale of an ill-drawn Will and 798 paintings told in two parts. ‘Silence is so accurate’. Mark Rothko once stated in a conversation with Elaine de Kooning. A bitter irony indeed when we consider …

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