Letters to the editor, June 2016

Francis Bacon felt no desire to draw Martin Harrison, the author of the Francis Bacon catalogue raisonné to be published on 30 June, is absolutely correct, in my opinion, in stating that the 600 drawings owned by Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino, an Italian lover of Bacon, are not by the artist (“Unauthenticated Francis Bacon works go on sale in London”, published online on 19 April).

I visited Bacon in his Reece Mews studio in 1981 and asked him if he ever considered using charcoal, as it is a medium that enables one to make non-illustrational (non-literal) facial features. Bacon told me he never used charcoal and found pencil to be far too limited to make non-illustrational “free” marks. He also said that he did not like Lucian Freud’s pencil drawings because they were too detailed and literal.Drawing with pencil is completely antithetical to the ethos of anti-illustration that Bacon aimed at.

The Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino drawings have eyes that are far too literal, far too illustrational, to be by Bacon. Also, the crude and garish bright colour schemes used are reminiscent of Pop Art and were not used by Bacon. Why would the artist—who was into “chance”, making “arbitrary” and “irrational” marks—use a graphic-fine-art medium such as pencil? Bacon used to throw paint at the canvas, but one cannot throw pencil at paper. The Francis Bacon Estate is right to reject these drawings as not being by the artist.

I am truly astonished, surprised and perplexed that the renowned art critic Edward Lucie-Smith should authenticate these idiotically childish scribbles as having been “drawn” by Bacon.

Alexander Verney-Elliott, London

Arbitration wins over litigation in gallery disputes I read your article “Who gets what when artists and galleries split up?” (The Art Newspaper 2, April, p4) with great interest. It perfectly highlighted the perils that frequently occur when artists and their galleries go their separate ways without any agreement in place setting out their respective rights and obligations on termination.

I was reminded of one of my recent cases, which involved a split between a well-known artist and his gallery. Following the termination of their relationship, the artist continued to store a number of his works in the gallery’s warehouse. The artist first discovered that matters were amiss on being alerted that a painting in the gallery’s custody had been listed for sale and then auctioned without his authority and with an unauthorised certificate of authenticity. In another instance, the gallery refused to release a work by the artist to a buyer, even though this had been sold before the termination of their relationship. The artist then demanded delivery of the other paintings in the gallery’s storage and the commission owed on the sale of the two works. The gallery refused, arguing that it was entitled to the money to offset the production and storage costs and as commission owed to it by the artist. No invoices or statements of account had ever been presented to the artist.

The matter evolved into a multi-jurisdictional dispute involving the artist, gallery, auction house and buyer of the work that had not been released. The case was eventually resolved by way of a number of multi-party settlement agreements. One thing that remained paramount throughout was the desire of all parties for confidentiality. This and the daunting prospect of legal costs in at least three jurisdictions caused the parties to settle.

Such desires for confidentiality and questions of jurisdictional issues make me question not only why the art world does not embrace the need for written contracts, but also why it does not consider the advantages of arbitration.

Following a recent review of art market professionals’ terms and conditions, I noted that only a handful of the auction houses and none of the galleries or dealers include arbitration clauses. Given the art market’s global reach, litigation has become an ever more costly exercise involving long jurisdictional arguments over where the claim should be brought. Arbitration cuts through all that and affords a number of other advantages, such as confidentiality and the flexibility for the parties to resolve their dispute efficiently. Ad hoc arbitrations can be far cheaper than litigation, particularly in England.

The final, and perhaps most important, advantage is the international enforceability of an arbitral award. Under the New York Convention 1958, which has 156 member states, a uniform enforcement procedure is available for arbitral awards; in simple terms, it says that such awards are to be treated as if they are judgments of the country in which they are being enforced. Litigation has nothing that compares with this, and enforcement of court judgments frequently involves multiple proceedings in different jurisdictions. With arbitration, the parties have an opportunity to resolve one dispute in confidential proceedings with one un-appealable award that is internationally binding and enforceable.

Eleni Polycarpou, head of international arbitration, Withers LLP