Art Law by Ann Avery Andres, Esq.


California Legal Requirements When Selling "Multiples"

(Most states have similar laws and you should check your local statutes for variations in specific disclosure requirements. California requirements are as comprehensive as any states).


Q: You have purchased a very beautiful lithograph at a gallery in Laguna Beach. When you bought the lithograph the dealer told you it was signed by the artist and was the 25th print out of 100 printed. In pencil on the left side of the bottom margin appeared "25/100."

Now you want to sell the lithograph to another dealer who has expressed an interest in buying it. The art dealer asks you for the "Certificate of Authenticity" and when you tell her that you don't have one, the dealer refuses to buy the lithograph telling you that it is not saleable without the certificate. Is the dealer's statement true or false? True.

When selling a "multiple" the law requires an art dealer to provide a "Certificate of Authenticity." A "multiple" is defined as any fine print, photograph, sculpture cast, collage, or similar art object produced in more than one copy. It also includes pages or sheets taken from books and magazines. A fine print or "print" means a multiple produced by, but not limited to, engraving, etching, woodcutting, lithography and serigraphy and multiples produced or developed from photographic negatives or any combination thereof.

When you purchased the lithograph from the dealer in Laguna Beach, she should have provided you with the "Certificate of Authenticity." This certificate must state all of the following: the name of the artist; if the artist's name appears on the multiple, a statement whether the multiple was signed by the artist personally; if the multiple was not signed by the artist personally, a statement of the source of the artist's name on the multiple such as whether the artist placed his signature on the multiple or on the master, whether his name was stamped or estate stamped on the multiple or on the master, or was from some other source or in some other manner placed on the multiple or on the master; a description of the medium or process and where pertinent to photographic processes, the material used in producing the multiple such as whether the multiple was produced through the etching, engraving, lithographic, serigraphic or a particular method or material used in photographic developing processes; if the multiple is a photomechanical or

There have many abuses by dealers, and others, in the sale of multiples. The law is designed to hold the dealer/seller to high standards of disclosure in order to avoid fraud as well as mistakes in sales.

photographic type of reproduction, or as to sculptures a surmoulage or other form of reproduction of sculpture cases, of an image produced in a different medium, for a purpose other than the creation of the multiple being sold, a statement of this information and the respective mediums; and if this last statement applies, and the multiple is not signed, a statement whether the artist authorized or approved in writing the multiple or the edition of which the multiple being sold is one; if the artist was deceased at the time the master was made which produced the multiple, this must be stated; if the multiple is a "posthumous" multiple, that is, if the master was created during the life of the artist but the multiple was produced after the artist's death, this most be stated; if the multiple was made from a master which produced a prior limited edition, or from a master which constitutes or was made from a reproduction or surmoulage of a prior multiple or the master which produced the prior limited edition, this must be stated as must the total number of multiples , including proofs, of all other editions produced from that master; the year the multiple was produced must be stated; whether the multiple is being offered as a limited edition, and if so: (1) the authorized maximum number of signed or numbered impressions or both in the edition, (2) the authorized maximum number of unsigned or unnumbered impressions or both, in the edition, (3) the authorized maximum number of artist's publisher's or other proofs, if any, outside of the regular edition and (4) the total size of the edition; and, finally, whether or not the master has been destroyed, effaced, altered defaced or canceled after the current edition.


Q: Now that you know what the law requires of a dealer, you should go back to the dealer in Laguna Beach and demand your money back or a "Certificate of Authenticity," True or False? True.

If the lithograph is returned within one year from the date of purchase, the law requires the dealer to return the purchase price PLUS interest. If it is determined that the dealer willfully sold the multiple without the Certificate of Authenticity and provided you with information that was mistaken, erroneous or untrue, the dealer is liable for three times the purchase price. And, if you have to file a lawsuit for your recovery, the court may award you costs, attorney fees and the costs of expert witnesses' fees. But, if the court determines the lawsuit was brought by you in bad faith (no basis for the claim), the court may award the same costs and expenses to the seller. The offending art dealer is also subject to a $1000.00 fine and an injunction not to continue sales without a Certificate of Authenticity.

In the case of Grogan-Beall v. Ferdinand Roten Galleries, Inc. a woman who sued the gallery under the California Sale of Pine Prints Act was required to tender to the defendants the print at issue as a precondition to recovery. It is important that the print be in the same condition as it was at the time of sale.

There have many abuses by dealers, and others, in the sale of multiples. The law is designed to hold the dealer/seller to high standards of disclosure in order to avoid fraud as well as mistakes in sales.

© Ann Avery Andres, 1999

Ann Avery Andres practices law in Santa Ana,CA. She may be reached at 714.558.7775. Her address is 322 West Third Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701.

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Resource Library Editor's note: Laws regarding the content of this article may have changed since it was published in 1999. Please seek legal counsel for current information.

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