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The honeymoon is over for the art market and HMRC

Since January 2020, the art market in the UK has enjoyed a honeymoon of sorts with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the UK art market’s anti-money laundering (AML) supervisory authority.  Since this regulator-regulatee relationship began, HMRC  has been a patient and kind partner. However, as with most relationships, this one is evolving past the honeymoon phase.

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The (Great) Tower of Babel (c. 1563), oil on wood panel

Inconsistency abounds in how “art” is defined in national anti-money laundering regulations

As if ensuring compliance with money laundering regulations, though essential, was not a sufficiently complex logistical burden on the art market (see our blog on combining both tech and human AML skills to achieve compliance), the lack of consistency around the most basic question: “what is a work of art?” leaves the art market experiencing its own form of “Tower of Babel”.

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War elephants used in battle

Court of Appeal hands down judgment in the Ivory Act Judicial Review

The Court of Appeal of England and Wales has handed down a judgment in the judicial review proceedings brought by a group of antique dealers and collectors (Friends of Antique Treasures Limited, or “FACT”) against the Ivory Act 2018 (the “Act”), one of the world’s toughest bans.

Double Agents

Double Agents

The Court of Appeal recently handed down judgment in the case of Prince Eze v Conway,[1] another case on agents and secret commissions. The case… Read More »Double Agents

25th Anniversary

CONSTANTINE CANNON LLP CELEBRATES 25TH ANNIVERSARY With offices in four cities, this law firm is home to among the most prominent practices in Antitrust, Whistleblower,… Read More »25th Anniversary


New Anti-Money Laundering Regulations Target the Art Market

Anti-money laundering laws in the UK are largely outlined in the Money Laundering Regulations 2017 (“Regulations 2017”)[1].  The Regulations 2017, which came into force on 26 June 2017, implemented the EU’s Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (“4AMLD”).  4AMLD aligned EU money laundering laws with international standards, harmonised those laws across the EU and embraced a risk-based approach to respond to the threat of money laundering.

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new york court dismisses agnes martin

New York Court Dismisses Claims Against Agnes Martin Authentification Committee

On 5 April 2018, a New York State court dismissed a complaint filed by the Mayor Gallery, a London-based art dealer, against Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné LLC (“AMCR”), Arnold Glimcher, the managing member of AMCR’s authentification committee and the owner of the Pace Gallery, Tiffany Bell, the catalogue’s editor, and other members of AMCR’s authentification committee for their refusal to include 13 artworks purportedly by Agnes Martin in the artist’s Catalogue Raisonné. The complaint sought more than $7 million in damages.

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Rothko Revisited

Earlier this year, we wrote about the claim brought by Dallas art collector, Marguerite Hoffman, against three defendants, L&M Arts, Studio Capital and David Martinez.… Read More »Rothko Revisited

Crack down on Bribery: a warning to galleries and dealers

The payment of bribes to foreign customs officials to facilitate the importation of goods in a foreign country has recently been in the spotlight after the Ralph Lauren Corporation made facilitation payments to Argentinian customs officials in connection with the importation of goods into the country.

On 22 April 2013, it was reported that the Ralph Lauren Corporation (a US company) would pay over USD 1.6 million to US authorities as part of a settlement for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This followed the discovery that the Argentinian subsidiary of the corporation paid bribes and made gifts to Argentinian customs officials between 2005 and 2009, to ensure that goods were imported into the country without inspection and without necessary paperwork. The corporation discovered the misconduct during an internal review and promptly reported it to the regulators. As a result of its co-operation with the authorities, the Ralph Lauren Corporation has not been charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Read More »Crack down on Bribery: a warning to galleries and dealers

The Importation of Video and Light Installations

The Customs Information Paper introducing changes to the temporary removal of goods from Customs Warehousing (see the article on this blog on Changes to the UK Bonded Warehousing Regime) refers to a previous Customs Information Paper (Ref: (10) 44 effective 18 June 2010).  The Annex to that Customs Information Paper seeks to clarify certain procedures for the importation of works of art and antiques for display at galleries, fairs and exhibitions.

The second paragraph of the Annex reads: “Some art works currently being imported into the UK are described as “art installations” or “light installations”.  These typically include some form of audio visual presentations or light display and current practice was to classify these installations according to their constituent parts and not as “art” in Chapter 97 of the Tariff”.  This is a reference to HMRC’s inept argument that a video installation (e.g. by artist Bill Viola) or a light installation (e.g. by artist Dan Flavin) cannot be imported in the UK as an artwork simply because it is disassembled and crated for shipping.  The fact that these art pieces are imported packed in boxes means, so argues HMRC, that they must be taxed as light bulbs, video screens and electric wires, because this is how these artworks appear to HMRC officials when they are wheeled through Customs.  The sub-text is that HMRC officials are so devoid of natural intelligence that they cannot make the difference between an artwork by a world-famous artist (even when it is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist) and a bunch of wires.  Tax should be levied, HMRC go on to say, at the rate applied to electrical and video apparatus, i.e. currently 20% instead of 5% for works of art.  Customs duty should be levied too, as it applies to electrical and video equipment, not to works of art.  This might have been mildly ridiculous, had HMRC not also argued that the higher rate of tax and duty should be applied not on the retail value of the electrical or video equipment (a few hundred pounds) but on the value declared by the importer being the value of an artwork by the artist (typically several hundred thousand pounds).Read More »The Importation of Video and Light Installations