Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Dealers in a bid to Overturn Legal Ruling that New York Salerooms MUST Reveal Consignors’ Names to Buyers.

This one's a cracker: Roland Arkell, 'Shock ruling to reveal names of consignors', Antiques Trade Gazette 23 October 2012. You will probably not see this one on the Lobbyist's "Cultural Property Observer" tonight.
Rejecting the claim that New York's auctioneers follow common practice when preserving the anonymity of their clients, the Supreme Court said last month that a binding auction contract in the state must include the name of both buyer and seller. The shock September 19 ruling delivered by Justice Peter B. Skelos of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division was prompted by an otherwise 'routine' legal action brought by Chester, New York saleroom William J. Jenack against a buyer who declined to pay his bill [...] the case took a less orthodox route when Rabizadeh took the court's decision to appeal and argued that the auction house had lacked the proper documents to demand payment. His argument was based on the letter of the General Obligations Law, the statute covering contracts between buyers and sellers in New York, which says a legally recognised contract must include the names of both parties.
The auction house had only included the informtion that the seller was the number "428" (a number they assigned themselves which they claim is "is common practice"). The judge disagreed.
While it may be true that auction houses commonly withhold the names of consignors, this court is governed not by the practice in the trade, but by the relevant statute.... In that regard, the statute clearly and unambiguously requires that the 'name of the person on whose account the sale was made'... be provided in the memorandum."
This ruling has some pretty important wider implications for the whole no-questions-asked antiquities market. It means auction houses will no longer be able to keep the names of consignors secret. This in turn means that the old argument that the collecting history has been lost can no longer be believed by those who want to shut their eyes to freshly "surfaced" (from "underground") material, in future, the documentation would be there or the transaction would have been illegal. So, as Roland Arkell drily remarks,...
The potential effects of the ruling were not lost on Christie's, who have joined Jenack in the appeal process to have the ruling overturned. Christie's declined to comment on the matter at this stage. 
Well, after all, what could they say? The ACCG are very quiet about it too.

But of course this does not apply just to New York auction houses, does it?

Hat tip to Kyri with thanks.

1 comment:

Dorothy King said...

Wow, that's certainly going to change things.

I suspect that the Appeal will be to argue that it breaches their right to Privacy.

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