Legal Question in Business Law in Pennsylvania

who owns the painting?

I am an artist who had a painting on consignment w/ a gallery - I have consignment receipt from gallery. Painting was sold through a 2nd gallery to a law firm. I have not received payment for ptg. of $500 - 50% of price 2nd gallery paid - from 1st gallery. They have no intention of paying me. Question - who owns painting? Me or law firm who bought it from 2nd gallery. I have documentation & photo slides of painting. How can I get payment from 1st gallery or painting from huge, powerful corporate law legal firm whom have been very gracious & cooperative?

Asked on 10/15/99, 6:58 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Gerry Elman Elman Technology Law, P.C.

Re: who owns the painting?

Without further facts, I wouldn't hazard a guess. You should consult a lawyer. Perhaps there's a chapter of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts near you. If you're near Philadelphia, you could locate further info on the local chapter from John Caldwell, of the Woodcock Washburn law firm.

When you discuss the matter with your lawyer, be sure to ask about how the Uniform Commercial Code would apply. This law governs sales of goods. Last time I studied it, years ago, it provided that someone who buys something from a "merchant who deals in goods of the kind" he bought gains good title to it, even if it wasn't paid for by the merchant. It's generally up to the original supplier to get his money from the merchant. But who knows, in your situation, there might be other facts that would lead to a different result.

Another thing to ask about would be who owns the copyright for the painting. Just because the physical embodiment of the painting is sold, it doesn't necessarily mean that the copyright was transferred. The Supreme Court dealt with the issue in Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid.

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Answered on 10/16/99, 3:02 pm

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