Art damage related expert witness and legal testimony services are an available professional service. But, there’s a caveat: art conservation as a profession (and a passion) is a field of technical evaluation and treatments for the artwork in question; it involves the application of science and technology – within the restraints of connoisseurship – for the preservation and restoration of art. Let me illustrate with a high profile case involving public art in Los Angeles, CA. A major outdoor mural by living artist Kent Twitchell was located on a building in downtown Los Angeles owned by the Department of Labor. The mural was painted out and the artist sued (V.A.R.A.). The legal brief may be found here: http://www.usip.com/pdf/Recent_Articles/Twitchell.pdf
Ed Ruscha Monument mural before being painted out
In plain language, my expert witness service was secured by the Department of Labor, United States Government through their legal council, Schwartz, Steve-Schwartz & Janzen LLP to provide analysis and consultation that would allow the two sides to settle in the case of compensating the artist. Through cleaning and (mural) removal tests, I presented several scenarios that could be options which included budgets for those hypothetical proposals. It was the budgets that I proposed that were the basis for the settlement of the case to the approval of my client. My tests, evaluations and budgets were based on the protection and preservation needs of the artwork and were real representations. In this case, however, I gave no deposition and was not cross examined.
Some time afterwards, I received a call from the opposite side’s attorney who stated they were interested in my services as an expert witness, now for their side, because they esteemed my professionalism and the fact that I was an “advocate for the artwork.” (Btw, I performed this same type of service on behalf of Shell Oil Company in lger and Levin Law Firm, Botello v. Shell Oil Co. 1991 and several others).
Some examples of expert witness cases involving art issues include: protecting public art or damage to public art, sorting out damage and costs for negligence in shipping/handling/storage of artwork, insurance fine arts policy claims, assessing damage of art in fires/water damage. Here are some of the cased I have worked with over the years:
Clement vs US Grant Hotel (2019) – Expert witness for plaintiff. Trial to protect artist’s reputation and rights, enforce terms of lease of artwork, evaluation of standards of practice of collection care. Services provided were lawsuit strategy development and research, on-site inspection and condition reports of artwork, deposition, trial testimony.
Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles vs. Army Corp of Engineers to save the Bicentennial Freedom Mural on the Prado Dam, Corona, CA (2019). Services provided were technical analysis, professional opinions, inspections, reports.
FACL, Inc. vs St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, Los Angeles, CA. Argued by Maurice H. Katz, Attorney General Law Practice. Expert witness for plaintiff who prevailed (settlement). Deposition taken.
Folger and Levin Law Firm, Botello v. Shell Oil Co. (1991) Los Angeles, CA. Mural was to be destroyed by property owner. Expert Witness (link) for the Defense – Analysis resulted in settlement in favor of artist, applauded by both sides (settlement). Analysis, inspection, reports. (V.A.R.A.)
Department of Labor, United States Government (Schwartz, Steve-Schwartz & Janzen LLP) vs. Kent Twitchell. Los Angeles, CA. Mural illegally painted out by US government landlord. Expert Witness (link), for the defense – analysis provided basis for settlement with artist that was applauded by both sides (settlement based on V.A.R.A.). Analysis, inspection, reports. See article https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-meet-the-man-saving-l-a-s-street-art-one-mural-at-a-time
Pepper vs Cookes (Art Handling and Shipping Co.), Houston, Texas 2002. Damaged artworks in shipping and storage. Evaluated for mold and impact damage. Expert witness for the defense – on site inspections and analysis provided basis for settlement in Defendant’s favor. Analysis, inspection, reports, deposition.
Haims, Valentino & Latchaw, LLP, Oakland, CA – Dahlin vs. Wildside West Bar. Mural painted out by property owner. Expert witness for Plaintiff who lost. Carol Valentino, Haines and Valentino Law Firm did not pay their bills. Analysis, inspection, reports (V.A.R.A.).
Sylvester Stallon vs. Cookes Crating (Art Handling and Shipping Co.), Los Angeles, CA. Damaged artwork in storage. Evaluated for impact and handling damage. Expert witness for the defense – on site inspections and analysis provided basis for settlement in Defendant’s favor. Analysis, inspection, reports, deposition.
Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles Graffiti on Los Angeles Freeway Murals (link) was about to file suit against the State of California, Caltrans and Vincent Moreno as Plaintiff for Caltrans’ painting out of murals along freeways in downtown Los Angeles. Hired as Expert Witness to work with both sides to determine resolution (settlement) which was achieved. Analysis, inspection, reports.
US General Services Administration vs. Turner. Washington D.C., GSA’s legal branch looking to recoup lost WPA possessions. Expert witness provided analysis, inspection, reports (settlement). http://www.gsa.gov/finearts (link)
Peggy Cafritz Estate (smoke and fire damage), Philadelphia, PA (2014). Fire in residence – when fire dept. arrived the hydrants did not give water and entire estate and contents were lost. Expert witness for Plaintiff who prevailed in settlement. Work applauded by both sides, Analysis, reports.
Nevins Estate (smoke and fire damage), Los Angeles, California. Expert witness for Plaintiff who prevailed in settlement. Analysis, inspection, reports, conservation treatments.
Dentzl vs. Insurance Co. (smoke and fire damage), Santa Barbara, California. Expert witness for Plaintiff who prevailed in settlement. Analysis, inspection, reports, conservation treatments.
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Co. (Historic preservation) vs State of CA. Los Angeles, California. Suit blocked the removal and sale of historic murals by liquidators in favor of the murals being a part of the historic fabric of the historic building. I was the only expert witness who was deposed for the Plaintiff. Plaintiff prevailed in settlement. Analysis, inspection, reports, deposition. Click here for overview. Click here for notice of settlement (LA Conservancy had little or no influence in the suit).
Simic Galleries vs. Landlord. San Diego, CA. Water damage and mold. Expert witness for Plaintiff who prevailed in settlement. Analysis, inspection, reports.
Twitchell vs. a Los Angeles Cemetery for “The Wedding”, a mural by Kent Twitchell, painted out without prior advisement or permission. Expert witness for Plaintiff who prevailed in settlement. Analysis, inspection, reports. Work applauded by both sides. Settlement based on V.A.R.A.
Victor Henderson vs Landlord for “Books St. Painting – LA Fine Arts Squad” a mural by Victor Henderson. Venice Beach, CA. Expert witness for Plaintiff who prevailed in settlement. Analysis, inspection, reports. Work applauded by both sides. Settlement based on V.A.R.A. Click here for article.
Works of art were damaged when the main water line broke in the commercial space on the floor above this company. See this short video clip: https://vimeo.com/173391808
Innumerable assessments, analysis, evaluations and reporting for insurance industry claims for both insured and insurance companies incl. Chubb, State Farm, Farmers, AIG, Chartis, Fireman
Here’s a short testimonial:
Click here for review of Consultation Services: https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/consultations/
Click here for Murals Capability Statement:https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/mural/
Click here for Media Room: https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/media-room/
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