Breaking into Art Law: Advice from Attorneys at Christie’s Auction House

Written by Sallie Oliver, Guest Contributor

Art law is a choice for mindsets with creative solutions on an international scale. What does art law tackle? Students met with the legal in-house counsel for Christie’s Auction House on Friday, February 26th, regarding the state of the practice of art law and how budding attorneys may break into this growing field successfully.

Meeting Room at Christie's
A meeting room at Christie’s Auction House New York.

 

The workspace at Christie’s is beautiful. Picture a boardroom overlooking Rockefeller Plaza and a box of cookies sliding across the table, a scene that may remind one of a Vegas croupier dealing precious cards. While offering sweets, Senior Vice President and General Counsel Jason Pollack shared notable advice, “Find success where you are no matter where that is.”

Pollack joined Christie’s nine months ago, and with a smile, admitted his real passion was in becoming NFL Commissioner. The cross-disciplinary study habits for an aspiring art lawyer prove beneficiary when you are engaging in daily transactions with all different sorts of personalities.

Showroom at Christie's
A recently renovated showroom at Christie’s Auction House New York.

 

Counsel member Sandy Compton highly recommends clerking, and being flexible with a range of interests, as she did herself. Few museums besides those in large cities have in-house legal counsel and will instead visit boutique law firms regarding contract mediation. Not surprisingly, the New York City Auction Regulations, which are in use today, Compton stated, “were created in the 1800s and, believe it or not, horse and buggy,” are still part of its language.

Regulatory contracts are typically tolerated long after relevancy comes into question and it is no different regarding art law. Therefore, art law has different challenges. An example includes leveraging litigation to ensure a $170,000,000 sculpture does not present too much liability for Christie’s Auction House or art collectors themselves. Also, acting on behalf of art collectors to ensure that stolen art stays off of the market by partnering with international policy makers.

While buying art is still largely unregulated, art law provides a degree of risk management that creates powerful investment opportunities.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article appeared on the author’s website: http://sallieoliver.me/.

Writer’s note: Thank you to Sali Salfiti, scholar at Brooklyn Law, for reaching out to Christie’s for this event. And please note that local and international internship listings can be found via Christie’s.com.

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