Sunday, March 09, 2008

Art Collector Feels "Victimized" After Selling Arbus Photos

From Artinfo:

An art collector says he feels "victimized" after selling a collection of previously unknown Diane Arbus photographs for $3,500, far below their value, the Associated Press reports.

Bayo Ogunsanya, who primarily collects African American art, bought a trunk full of unclaimed photographs at a Bronx storage facility in 2002 and sold some of them to Robert Langmuir, who returned a week later asking to purchase more and offering to give Ogunsanya more money if the photographs turned out to be "worth more than you and I think they are."

It was only later that Ogunsanya learned from a New York Times article that the photos were by Arbus and would go on display in a Los Angeles Gallery in February and be auctioned next month at Phillips de Pury & Company. Ogunsanya, who claims Langmuir knew the whole time that the photos were Arbus's, took his case to federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday, asking the court to block or change the terms of the sale and award him unspecified damages. The lawsuit says the photographs are likely worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I suspect that if Langmuir is a professional (art dealer or art trader of some sort), then Ogunsanya may be covered under what's sometimes known as the "Widow's Law" in some states.

This law, as I understand it, tries to protect people from being cheated by professionals when selling collectibles, art, etc.

So if someone comes to me to sell me some artwork, and I recognize a bunch of Morris Louis' paintings in the stacks, I can't legally cheat the seller by offering them a few hundred bucks for the lot.

I'm not sure if the law applies when neither party has any idea of the value of the objects. In other words, if Langmuir "knew the whole time" that they were Arbus' photos and what their value really was, then he may be on the wrong side of the law if he's some sort of dealer - I'm not sure if the law applies if he's just a savvy collector. But if Langmuir had no idea what the photos were valued at, and then subsequently found out their real value - then I suspect that he is in the clear -- but if once he found out the value, then he came back to rip off Ogunsanya of the remaining Arbus photos, then he is probably in the wrong side of the law.

Pixelating America

Who says Mike Licht doesn't post art stories anymore? Read this.