Expert Insights

Expert Insights

A “Pink Panther” fallout – the Sammons ‘debacle’

For the last three years, allegations made against former British art dealer Timothy Sammons have made the news across the globe, and not just in the art world. The stories emerging from the allegations made against him have captured the attention of many and, for those directly affected, have had wide ranging implications, resulting in numerous pieces of litigation being heard both in the Courts of London and New York. 

Mr Sammons, formerly an extremely highly regarded figure in the art world, has been accused of improperly dealing with artworks entrusted to him by his clients as their dealer. He is accused of selling artwork, to which he had no title, without the owner’s consent and without accounting for the profits. He is also accused of using artwork as collateral for loans for which the artwork’s owners claim they received no benefit and knew nothing about. Artwork involved includes masterpieces by artists including Van Gogh, Picasso, Chagall and Magritte. Following filings by the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Mr Sammons faced extradition to the US. Mr Sammons has now been charged in New York with multiple counts of grand larceny and one count of scheming to defraud. 

For those that have been directly affected, the question of how to respond to such a situation, especially initially as rumors circulate, is of paramount importance.

With talk of Mr Sammons and his companies facing insolvency from when the story first began to appear, there were of course concerns about very limited assets from which losses could be recovered, as well as the potential treasured pieces of art being lost.

For clients that have been greatly affected by the fallout, our specialist art litigation team worked alongside experts in the art world to achieve relief and clarity.

Obtaining relief in such a scenario, where the speed of acting and the extent of the sophistication of strategies will determine the likely outcome of a situation, requires urgent and specialist legal advice. Complex areas of law arise, such as questions of which jurisdictions claims should be brought in, or relief sought when artwork has moved locations and also when previously unknown third parties in different jurisdictions claim various rights over assets. A deep understanding of industry sensitivities is required, and also crucial to success are the close relationships with international experts and the delicate collaboration with third parties.

With potential fraudsters becoming increasingly international in approach and reach, coupled with the lack of regulation in the art world seeking expert legal advice at the very outset of an issue arising is key. Charles Russell Speechlys’ Art group is well equipped to assist clients with achieving the best resolution possible.

This article was written by Lucy Wicksteed. For more information please get in touch via or +44 (0)20 7203 8851.

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