In a case that put the spotlight on the artistic world, the New South Wales Supreme Court has found the auction house Christie’s liable for misleading and deceptive conduct and unconscionable conduct under the Trade Practices Act (now called the Australian Consumer Law), as well as being found guilty of deceit. The case involved a painting sold by Christie’s as a work of Albert Tucker. However, it was found to be false approximately 10 years after the sale. Both an art dealer and an adviser were also found partially liable for the loss.
Christie’s actions were said to be “commercially reprehensible and unconscionable in the circumstances” due to suspicions about the painting’s authenticity, that arose soon after the sale, not being communicated to the buyer. This lack of communication led to the 5 year guarantee by Christie’s expiring and a significantly lower value of the work. This only became known when the buyer looked to sell the painting years later.
The case shows the wide application of Australian Consumer Law protections and how industries that may not normally be considered to be subject to the consumer protections can be found liable under the Act.