March 15, 2011
Nice Hypo from the World of Art Law
As reported in the New York Times, one day, art collector Charles Cowles thought to himself, "Hey I could use some money." So, he decided to see Mark Tansey's 1981 painting, "The Innocent Eye Test," in which a cow gazes at a painting of a two cows. Monaco-based British collector Robert Wylde purchased the painting for $2.5 million through the Gagosian Gallery. For that price, Mr. Wylde thought he had purchased a 100% interest in the painting. Apparently, Mr. Tansey forgot to mention that the Metropolitan Museum of Art already owned a 31% interest in the painting. Oops. Now Mr. Wylde is suing the Gagosian Gallery.
By the way, we are envious of the first comment from "Freddie" in the Times link. "Heifer cow is better than not having any part of one." That's rich! And Mr. Cowles is now Cowless! Brilliant!
Freddie notes that that the case is reminiscent of "one of those nutty issue spotter exams we'd get in law school." Now there my friend, you have gone too far. If this were an issue-spotter exam, we would add the following twist: Mr. Tansey was willing to sell the painting of the cow in part because he thought it was a barren painting. Mr. Wylde discovered shortly after the purchase that the painting was not only fertile but was with calf. Mr. Tansey sought to void the sale based on the doctrine of mutual mistake.
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