Art Defamation: Private Business v. Met Over King David

King David from the MET collection. Image source:

Quick, someone message Ariadne Oliver; a case of art defamation intrigue is afoot on the island of Manhattan!

A discreet New York business is going toe-to-defamation-toe with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The always important issue of provenance anchors this art libel action, and the also-ran stands to suffer a significant vicissitude.

Two Busts of King David Lead To An Art Defamation Motion

According to reports, both the MET and Latipac Inc. claim possession of a 12th century limestone bust of King David. Originally, according to the MET, the bust graced an entry way in the French cathedral of Notre Dame — until Jacobin-leaning revolutionaries raided the sanctuary to rid it of any dynastic iconography. King David’s nose is missing, which is said to have happened when being torn from the church facade.

MET Refuses To Confer Provenance On Object D’Art

So why is Latipac Inc. filing an art defamation lawsuit? Well, specialists at the MET aren’t willing to concede that two King David busts exist – and the museum also owns a sculpture identical to the Latipac sculpture. Could two busts exist? Sure, why not. Is it likely? Egh…probably not. Interestingly, however, the Cathedral de Notre Dame’s website says that construction on the west façade did not begin until 1200; however, the MET dates the bust back to 1145.

Addressing Provenance Problems Via An Art Defamation Legal Action

The uncertain authenticity of the sculptures presents a huge problem for both parties. For the MET, a counterfeit item would undoubtedly invite a loud whisper campaign in the art world, and by default, call in to question the quality of the museum’s entire collection. Galleries and Michelin-starred restaurants from New York to Miami, London to Barcelona, would be abuzz. On the other hand, if Latipac’s bust is deemed fake, the company would not be able to sell it for a hefty sum.

In an attempt to mitigate future art disparagement, Latipac took legal action. The company filed a motion for declaratory injunctive relief in preparation to defend itself from future “slander of title” and “product disparagement”.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this art defamation situation. If you want to keep abreast of the latest slander and libel news, sign up for our newsletter. If you want to speak with an art defamation attorney about a situation, we invite you to contact us.

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