DC has no law protecting artists involved in transactions for works of art. In the absence of a statute, works of art owned by artists but in the possession of galleries (e.g., loaned for exhibition or otherwise in a gallery's inventory) can be seized by creditors of the gallery.
DC used to have such a law (DC Code Section 28:9-114), but this section was omitted when the new Uniform Commercial Code Secured Transactions Revision Act of 2000 was adopted.
Over two dozen states currently have statutes that govern consignments of works of art with galleries. A consignee-gallery under these statutes holds the works of art received from the consignor in trust, holds sale proceeds in trust for the benefit of the consignor, and the works of art consigned are not subject to the claims of the consignee-gallery's creditors.
A law to protect artists must include the following provisions:
1 - Consignee-gallery is agent or trustee with a fiduciary obligation to consignor;
2 - Works of art and any proceeds from sales are held in trust for the benefit of the consignor;
3 - Consignor has right to sue consignee-gallery for the value of any works appropriated by consignee-gallery and/or seized by creditors of consignee-gallery;
4 - Consignor has right to recoup court fees and reasonable attorney's fees associated with any lawsuit to enforce rights;
5 - Consignor is defined to include artists, collectors, and the estates of artists.
We ask that the DC City Council take action as soon as possible to protect the rights of Artists, Collectors, and the Estates of Artists.
The DC Advocates for the Arts work to support arts in the District through interaction with arts leaders and policy-makers. To learn more, visit: http://www.dcadvocatesforthearts.org.
Robert Bettmann (Chair)
The Advisory Board
Jennifer Cover Payne
E. Ethelbert Miller
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