Art Dealer Groups Propose Solution to Ivory Ban
Published on Michael McCullough LLC Blog
In a letter sent today to Director Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Art and Antique Dealers League of America (the “League”) and the National Antique and Art Dealers Association of America (“NAADAA”) proposed the creation of an art advisory panel to assist the Fish and Wildlife Service in assessing whether objects being imported, exported or sold in interstate commerce are antiques over 100 years old.
The proposal states that “every importer, exporter and seller in interstate commerce would be required to apply to the Service for an ESA permit to conduct such activity with respect to each object containing ESA-listed species. The Advisory Panel would review the permit applications and advise the Service on the antique status of the objects. This would create a transparent market for ESA-permitted objects reviewed and certified by the Advisory Panel and registered with the Service.”
The art advisory panel is not a new idea. The Internal Revenue Service has maintained a similar advisory panel since 1968. The Art Advisory Panel of the Commissioner of IRS provides advice and makes recommendations to the Art Appraisal Services unit in the Office of Appeals. The IRS Art Advisory Panel helps the IRS review and evaluate the acceptability of tangible personal property appraisals taxpayers submit in support of the fair market value claimed on the wide range of works of art involved in income, estate, and gift tax returns. Some of the past and current members of the IRS Art Advisory Panel are past and current members of the League and NAADAA.
According to the letter, “[t]he implementation of the Advisory Panel along the lines proposed [above] would provide an effective solution to a complex problem; it would encourage transparency, promote the lawful trade of ESA permitted objects, and discourage the black market in unpermitted objects. In the absence of such transparency, the legitimate trade in antique ivory will suffer, and a secondary, secretive ivory market may continue to the detriment of the world’s elephant herds. We wish to help to avoid this counterproductive result.”
The League and NAADAA were advised by Michael McCullough LLC, a New York law firm that advises leading auction houses, dealers and collectors on endangered species issues in the art market. Mr. McCullough is an art market lawyer who is a former Associate Counsel to Sotheby’s. “This is a serious proposal by the dealer groups,” said Mr. McCullough. “It’s important to maintain a legal market for art objects that contain endangered species. By having a legal regulated market in antique objects certified by an advisory panel within the Fish and Wildlife Service, collectors and dealers will have a regulated market to trade in important art objects. Under the current Director’s Order, many of the objects in private collections and museums are worthless.”
After reading the letter, William Pearlstein of Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP, a prominent art market lawyer, said “the twin goals of the dealer’s proposal to create a transparent, licit market in ivory objects that are vetted and certified as antiques, and discouraging the traffic in uncertified objects that lack permits merits broad support.”
Mr. McCullough’s firm is organizing a meeting on March 18, 2014 from 6:30-8:30 in New York City for all interested collectors, dealers, auctioneers, museums and other interested parties to discuss the Director’s Order and the proposed solutions for maintaining a legal trade in objects containing endangered species. Those interested in attending the meeting should contact Mr. McCullough at Michael@McCulloughLLC.com