Sunday, February 18, 2018

Cornering the Art Market?


On February 6, 2018, Robert Cenedella filed an antitrust class action complaint against the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the New Museum, alleging a conspiracy to manipulate the art market. Cenedella is a painter who studied with George Grosz and has been a minor presence in the art market for decades. He is also known as the "Art Bastard" and is the subject of a movie. The Harvard Journal of Sports & Entertainment Law and Artnet have also reported on the complaint.

I am skeptical that Cenedella's action will succeed.

For one thing, I doubt that the court will certify the class. Who are the members? How can a federal court determine which artists should have qualified for gallery representation?

For another, what is Cenedella's claim?  As far as I can tell, he wants to participate in a cartel, and is complaining about his exclusion. That isn't the kind of problem that antitrust law was intended to solve. And he doesn't allege any facts to support an antitrust conspiracy. Which creates an obvious Twiqbal problem.

In any case, I will be very interested to see how this action proceeds.

Brian L. Frye

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