Art Law

Cultural assets not only enrich our everyday lives, but are also important carriers of value – in the private sphere as well as in economic life. Acquisition, ownership and transfer of art, also from generation to generation, require careful planning and demand specific legal expertise. We advise and represent artists, art dealers, museums and collectors nationwide in all matters of art law.

We advise on art law in particular in the following areas:

Purchase and sale of art and cultural goods

The sale and purchase of art involves risks. If, after the conclusion of the contract, it becomes apparent that the work of art is damaged, has been improperly restored, or is a forgery, the question arises as to what rights the seller and buyer have. Our attorneys specializing in art law review or draft and negotiate art purchase agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and Letter of Authorization & Availability, highlight potential points of conflict, and advise on the execution of the contract. In the event of purchase defects, we provide representation in and out of court.

Auction law – consignment, auction and warranty of defects

Auction law is hardly specifically regulated by law, but it raises numerous legal questions, for example regarding limits, conditional knockdowns or sham bids. The warranty for defects is usually largely excluded in auction conditions. In this special area, knowledge of trade customs and the jurisdiction that has developed over decades is therefore particularly important. We advise consignors and prospective buyers prior to the auction and review consignment agreements and general terms and conditions. In case of disputes between consignor, buyer and auction house we advise and represent in and out of court nationwide.

Art forgery

Art forgeries not only damage the oeuvre of the artist, but also have a considerable negative impact on the art market. If a forgery is sold as an original, the question arises as to what rights the buyer has against the seller and, if applicable, also against forgers or experts, and whether he can hold himself harmless. In terms of criminal law, an investigation for fraud and forgery of documents may be the consequence. We have a large network of experts who verify the authenticity of works of art. If a suspicion of forgery is confirmed, we represent our clients in and out of court. This also includes representation vis-à-vis the prosecution authorities.

Looted art and restitution

Nazi looted art is not only found in public museums, but also in private collections or foundations. If the suspicion of a persecution-related seizure is confirmed, an entry is made in the Lost Art database or the Advisory Commission is called upon, the work of art is effectively no longer tradable. The Washington Declaration, which states that “just and fair solutions” should be found, only obligates the public sector, but should also serve as a guideline for looted art in private ownership. If looted art is restituted by the public sector or by foundations without a justifiable basis, this can lead to an investigation for breach of trust. We have a network of renowned provenance researchers at our disposal and advise and represent clients out of court, in court and before the Advisory Commission.

Cultural Property Protection Law

With its latest reform, the German Cultural Property Protection Act has imposed further obligations on art dealers and collectors, some of which carry severe penalties. For example, before cultural property can be exported – depending on its type, age and value – it must undergo a permission procedure. In the case of imports, it must be checked whether the cultural property was exported in the past in violation of the laws of other countries. Before cultural property is placed on the market, it must be checked whether it has been lost, illegally imported into Germany or illegally excavated. The due diligence requirements for commercial trade are even stricter. All this requires specific expertise and practical experience. We advise on all questions of cultural property protection, accompany export applications and undertake representation vis-à-vis cultural property protection authorities, customs and law enforcement agencies.

Bequeathing art – wills and foundation solutions

The inheritance of art requires careful planning. If the testator wants his or her collection to be preserved in the future, or even to be expanded, exhibited and researched, a foundation on death’s doorstep or a donation with conditions can be an option. From a tax point of view, the question arises as to whether a collection meets the requirements for full or partial exemption from gift or inheritance tax. We advise you, work out individual succession solutions and implement them legally for you.

Corporate Collections

Most corporate collections start small, for example with a painting in the CEO’s office, an installation in the lobby or in front of the building. If the collection grows or a work of art is to be removed or sold, specific legal issues arise. This is because commissioned works, purchases and sales should be drawn up contractually in a clean manner, and insurance contracts should be reviewed from time to time and adjusted if necessary. If Nazi looted art is identified in the corporate collection, there may be a threat of loss of reputation, but also of investigation proceedings for breach of trust. We have been successfully managing corporate art collections for years and are familiar with the requirements of art law.

Your Contact

If you have any questions regarding art law, please do not hesitate to contact us. Call or write us.

Dr. Louis Rönsberg

„My strength: leading negotiations - strategically and efficiently.“

Dr. Louis Rönsberg
Rechtsanwalt (Lawyer), Partner
Certified Specialist Lawyer for Banking and Capital Market Law
(Fachanwalt für Bank- und Kapitalmarktrecht)
Certified Specialist Lawyer for Corporate and Commercial Law
(Fachanwalt für Handels- und Gesellschaftsrecht)

„My consulting: International, empathic, pragmatic and at the same time very deep in the subject.“

Sandra Bendler-Pepy
Rechtsanwältin (Lawyer), Partner
Avvocato (Italy)
Sandra Bendler-Pepy
Julia Obletter

„My recipe for success: legal expertise, accuracy and solution-oriented, pragmatic thinking.“

Julia Obletter
Rechtsanwältin (Lawyer), Associate

„Rethinking law: Your dynamic partner in civil law - clever, modern, solution-oriented.“

Marie-Sophie Dötsch
Rechtsanwältin (Lawyer), Associate
Marie-Sophie Dötsch
Chiara Gerber

„Legal solutions for complex challenges - I provide you with competent and reliable support.“

Chiara Gerber
Rechtsanwältin (Lawyer)


Transaction of Renaissance painting

2022 Advising the seller of a Renaissance painting in a private sale. Purchase price € 10 Mio.

Art Kite Collection

2022 Advice to the consignors of the Art Kite Collection - auction result € 8.7 million (Nagel)

Bergonzi-Cello transaction

2022 Advice to the buyer of one of three known cellos by Bergonzi (pupil of Stradivari), 1740

Learn more in our blog

2. November 2023
Art auction: What rights does the buyer have when purchasing a forgery at an auction in Germany?
Casual Friday Look