Steve and Katie discuss the Nazis’ complicated and perverse relationship with fine art with attorney and author Nicholas O’Donnell. Nick is the author of the recent book, A Tragic Fate: Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art, which tells the story of stolen and appropriated art in World War II Europe and how the U.S. legal system has been instrumental in dealing with claims for restitution decades later. Steve, Katie and Nick start with the historical landscape in 1930s Europe, and discuss some the most contentious and ongoing disputes.
On this bonus episode, Katie and Steve discuss the recent SCOTUS case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 U.S. ___ (2018). In this case, a baker claimed his First Amendment free exercise and free speech rights were violated when he was found in violation of a Colorado statute prohibiting disparate treatment based on sexual orientation in public accommodations for refusing to make and sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The baker refused to make the wedding cake because of his religious objections to gay marriage. Although the controlling decision of the Supreme Court only dealt narrowly with the baker’s free exercise, religious discrimination claim, free expression issues lurked in the background and were taken up directly and forcefully in Justice Thomas’ partial concurrence. Katie and Steve discuss the free expression part of the case and its real or imagined relationship to artist’s rights and government censorship of art.
On this month’s episode, Steve and Katie dive into the charged topic of censorship. With guest Professor Amy Adler they talk about government and non-government attempts to censor art, what the legal boundaries are and where the law actually has little if nothing to say about censorship of art. They describe applicable First Amendment doctrine, apply it to art and examine particular examples of art “censorship” from the culture wars of the 1990s through today, from both the political right and left.
Katie and Steve give an update on the first round of auction sales as part of the Berkshire Museum’s court sanctioned deaccessioning plan. They discuss the results of the sales, the museum’s current stance, and where that leaves us (hint: dissatisfied).
On this month’s podcast, we take a close look at art auctions – how they work, their place in the art market and the rules and regulations that confine/define them. Auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s now regularly net tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars for a single work. Christie’s recently sold Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi painting for $450 million, by far the highest price ever garnered by a piece of art at auction. At the same time, much about the auction process remains secret. The identity of the buyer and seller is often known only to the auction house, and the reserve price (below which an artwork will not be sold) is known by the auctioneer but not the bidders. While the auctioneer may not sell a work of art below its reserve price, it can bid on the work below the reserve to get the auction going. Steve and Katie discuss these issues and others having to do with regulation, transparency and potential conflicts, and welcome famous Sotheby’s auctioneer Oliver Barker to take us behind the scenes of a big auction.