The Arts & Culture Sector

Arts & Culture can be both a sector specialism of a law firm and also a specific practice area for a lawyer (scroll down for what lawyers do in this area!).

The arts & culture industry...

The arts and culture industry is based around the expression of creativity and comprises things such as art, fashion, film, theatre and performing arts, music, publishing and historical and cultural museums and galleries. 

Arts and culture contributes £10.8 billion a year to the UK economy and makes up around 363,700 jobs (*data taken from the arts Art is also a very important asset for a law firm's international clients too!

Brexit is expected to have an impact on the arts and culture industry as organisations are concerned about the following issues: 

(1) the ability of individuals to work abroad in the EU for short periods,

(2) how funding from EU sources will be replaced, and

(3) the barriers to trade in this sector. 

What do the lawyers do?!

The following legal issues can arise in arts and culture:

  • buying and selling art; 

  • advising on the sale of art at an auction and on sales or gifts to public organisations; 

  • agency and commission agreements; 

  • disputes relating to the authenticity of art work; 

  • using art work as security for loans and other forms of finance; 

  • advising and litigating the theft of art (criminal law); 

  • the implications of competition law on the sector; 

  • trading art as an export and online and dealing with appropriate licensing; 

  • insuring art work; 

  • assisting corporate entities in the business of art work with their strategy and investment; 

  • dealing with ownership disputes over art work and intellectual property rights including the licence to re-sell art work; 

  • assisting organisations in this sector with regulatory and compliance issues; and

  • dealing with TAX on art and related work both from a tax planning strategy perspective and the treatment of art and cultural assets in estate planning, wills and trusts.  

There are both contentious and non-contentious elements to the work of lawyers that practice in the arts and culture sector so it will very much depend on the specific discipline that you specialise in (see 'what do lawyers do' portal for the variety of disciplines that you can specialise in). 


Accordingly, practice areas that can fall within this sector include:

  • Corporate

  • Finance 

  • Art Litigation

  • Commercial and Intellectual Property 

  • Regulatory and Compliance 

  • Insurance 

  • Tax

Clients in this sector...

Clients will include:

  • artists

  • art advisers and valuers

  • auctioneers

  • collectors

  • dealers

  • financial institutions

  • government bodies

  • national galleries and museums 

  • private galleries

  • trade associations 

  • charities and not for profits 

  • music industry clients such as producers and creators 

  • authors 

Example legal cases

Stephenson Harwood acted for the sellers in a dispute connected to the sale of some art work via a dealer. The dispute was regarding the attribution and description of the works. 

Lee & Thompson advised on an equity investment by a high profile retail entrepreneur into a Mayfair gallery business and on his injection of loan finance. 

Lee & Thompson also advised a high profile art dealer on their potential exit from, and re-negotiation of, terms with a major global contemporary Art Gallery. 

Law firms to consider...