The New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sotheby’s today, denying art dealer Marc Jancou’s claim that the auction house broke its contract when they withdrew his Cady Noland aluminum print from a sale late last year. The house originally agreed to sell “Cowboys Milking,” but pulled it after Noland disavowed the work — a protection granted under the Visual Artists Rights Act — because she believed it was bent beyond repair.
The judge points out that Sotheby’s tried to convince Noland to change her mind, but she continued to demand that the house remove the work from auction. “The current condition of the work materially differs from that at the time of its creation,” her lawyer wrote in a letter to Sotheby’s, noting that Christie’s had already declined to sell the work for the same reason.
To protect against authenticity issues, Sotheby’s provides a caveat in its consignment agreements allowing the withdrawal of any artwork that has uncertain attribution. In this case, via VARA, Noland effectively unsigned the work, leading the judge to conclude: “Absent the author’s name, the print was not the “Property” listed on the Property Schedule attached to the consignment agreement and there was more than doubt as to attribution: there was no attribution.”
Jancou’s lawsuit against Noland herself is still pending.
— Rachel Corbett