Jacqueline Tate ’10 has won a writing award for her paper, “The House Always Wins: A Call to Reform Art Auction House Regulations,” in a competition sponsored by the New York State Bar Association’s Scholarship Committee of the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law (EASL) Section. The 2009 Phil Cowan Memorial/BMI Scholarship Competition award includes publication of the paper in the EASL Journal as well as a $2,500 scholarship.
Tate’s paper focuses on the veil of secrecy that hides many practices of art auction houses from bidders. She describes the use of undisclosed reserves, or prices below which the artworks will not be sold. Another hidden practice is giving guarantees, whereby money is provided up front to potential sellers to entice them to sell, or a third party is brought in to guarantee the price required by a seller.
These hidden practices serve to create artificially high prices, Tate argues in her paper, making art works less accessible and unjustly enriching the auction houses. She analyzes existing regulations, finding that they “fall short of balancing the interests of both the public and the business sector and wreak havoc on the art market by inflating prices and undermining public trust.” She asserts that auction houses must be required to uphold their fiduciary duties to sellers, buyers and the public by becoming more transparent, and she calls for specific reforms, such as disclosures.
“I started thinking about the topic for the paper when the financial crisis hit in the fall of 2008,” Tate said. “Although banks were collapsing, the art market was still going strong. One artist, Damien Hirst, had an incredibly successful and unprecedented one man show that hit record sales numbers. However, many of his works, along with those of other prominent artists, failed to sell in the November auctions, effectively bursting the art market’s bubble.” She went on to say, “Everyone was calling for transparency in financial world, and I thought there should be more transparency in the art world as well.” Tate credits her advisor, Associate Dean Beryl Jones-Woodin, for guiding her in researching and editing the paper.
Tate is fully engaged in student life at Brooklyn Law School. She is currently a Notes and Comments Editor on the Journal of Corporate, Financial and Commercial Law, acts as the co-chair of the Art Law Association (ALA), and is a member of the Outlaws, a student organization that sponsors events relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. She is especially enthusiastic about her work with the ALA, which has sponsored presentations by counsel for the Whitney and Metropolitan museums, and co-sponsored award dinners with the Brooklyn Entertainment and Sports Law Society where alumni have been honored.
Tate has participated in the Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic (BLIP), and was a legal intern at Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams and Sheppard LLP, MasurLaw, and for the New York City Department of Social Services/HRA. She was also a research assistant for Professor Jones-Woodin.
Before law school, Tate earned a master’s degree in art history at Richmond the American International University in London, UK. Her B.A., also in art history, was from the University of Michigan. She has also worked as the assistant director of Floating World Gallery and interned at Christie’s Fine Art Auctioneers. She is looking forward to clerking in the fall for Superior Court Judge Mary F. Thurber in Bergen County, New Jersey.