“A good reputation for supporting individual artists, photographers, business owners, agents and dealers in addition to investors and art galleries.” – Legal 500

Lee & Thompson’s dedicated Art Group is made up of a team of dynamic, knowledgeable lawyers with significant industry experience working in the art, design, photography and wider visual arts sector. We appreciate that the art world throws up commercial realities which can be highly specific to the sector and with many of our lawyers having worked in the creative industries themselves, we are approachable and particularly well placed to understand our clients’ needs.

Our lawyers have advised and supported some of the best known names in Art Galleries, Auction Houses, Art Fairs, Image Archives, and physical and online art and design businesses. Additionally, we assist start-up and emerging businesses in the sector. On the private client side, Lee & Thompson has also been supporting individual artists, photographers, artists’ agents and dealers for many years. Other individual clients include collectors, business owners and investors in the sector.

The Art Group advises on all corporate, finance, employment, commercial, intellectual property, digital and regulatory matters pertinent to the sector. Our strong litigation team also advise on related contentious matters such as title, authenticity, intellectual property and agency disputes.

And as the boundaries between art, film and video, and digital media (including virtual reality and AI) become increasingly blurred, we are perfectly placed to advise artists and producers at the forefront of these initiatives. In particular, for those artists looking to create, develop, direct and/or produce scripted (or non-scripted) audio visual programming (whether feature films, TV productions, digital content, computer games or otherwise) we have an experienced team able to call upon their networks and help structure deals for our artist clients.

Matters we advise on include:

Corporate & Finance

We can assist with all aspects of ownership of, and investment into, art related businesses. We can also assist with debt finance, and with loan agreements secured by art.

  • advising a Mayfair Auction House on its acquisition of an online auction business,
  • advising Asian Arts Fair on the sale of Art HK to Art Basel,
  • advising SME London on running the annual “Art [17]” events in London, and Upper Street Events on running the London Art Fair,
  • advising on the equity investment by a high profile retail entrepreneur into a Mayfair gallery business and on his injection of loan finance,
  • restructuring the shareholdings in a highly successful family-owned antiques business,
  • advising a seasoned art dealer in relation to his interests in an Art Fund and on a part-ownership contract,
  • advising a London museum on its potential collaboration with a leading fashion brand, and
  • assisting a high profile contemporary art gallery negotiate a successful parting of ways with a founder-investor and avoiding a dispute.

We represent employees and employers.

  • advising a high-profile art dealer on their potential exit from, and re-negotiation of terms with, a major global contemporary Art Gallery,
  • advising senior directors on their exits from a major Auction House and, separately, from a leading Arts Magazine, and
  • setting up a Mayfair Gallery; including putting in place the directors’ service contracts, the junior employment contracts, the consultants’ contracts and intern agreements together with their commission arrangements and assisting with the visa requirements to bring a senior director and his family from the Middle East.
Art Litigation

Our litigation team provides advice on art litigation including disputes over ownership, authenticity and provenance, misattributed or damaged artwork, loss of sale and associated losses, and breach of contract.

  • advising in relation to a dispute involving a major Artist’s Estate and leading Mayfair Gallery,
  • advising a not-for-profit organisation for photographers in relation to various copyright disputes,
  • assisting a celebrity artist obtain the return of his work after it had been delivered to a non-paying collector on a sale or return basis, and
  • advising a jewellery dealer in respect of its agent’s breach of warranty of authority and on the proceedings being threatened by a disgruntled potential purchaser.
Commercial, Intellectual Property & Compliance

We provide pragmatic and industry appropriate advice, and we draft and negotiate industry-specific contracts such as Consignment Agreements (for consignment to galleries and auction houses), Artists’ Management Agreements, Artists’ Agents Agreements, Private Treaty Sale Contracts, gallery/dealer’s Terms of Sale, Buying and Selling Agency Agreements, Non-Circumvent Agreements and Commission Agreements. We can also advise on Copyright, Design Rights, Moral Rights and Artists’ Resale Rights, together with issues relating to anti-Money Laundering and Corruption.

  • advising a high-profile art dealer on his agency agreement with a major Artist’s Foundation,
  • advising on the purchase of the entire catalogue of a world-famous photographer and setting up a new online Image Archive and Gallery, and assisting with the acquisition and representation of other photographers’ estates,
  • advising a household name Image Archive on its commercial contracts including licensing agreements, and
  • assisting with the set up of the London branch of a luxury design company.