An Introduction To New York’s Fine Art “Multiples” Law: Some Protection For Purchasers of Multiples



Article 15 of the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law (“ACAL”) provides art purchasers with substantive rights and remedies against art merchants who sell artworks produced in multiples.  McKinney’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law Art. 15, NY ART & CULT AFF ART. 15 (2013).

 Defining “Multiples” Under the ACAL

Under the ACAL, “Multiples” means “prints, photographs, positive or negative, sculpture and similar art objects produced in more than one copy and sold, offered for sale or consigned in, into or from this state for an amount in excess of one hundred dollars ($100) exclusive of any frame….”  Id.  at § 11.01(21).

 ACAL Requires Art Merchants to Make “Full Disclosure” When Selling Multiples

Article 15 of the ACAL requires every art merchant who sells artworks produced as multiples to provide certain information including, by way of example, the name of the artist; whether the multiples are signed; the medium or process; the use of a master; the time produced; and the size of the edition.  See Id.  §§ 15.03, 15.05, 15.07 and 15.09.  Note that older works require less information (e.g., pre-1900 works require less information pursuant to Section 15.09).  The information provided creates an express warranty and, even applies to transactions between art merchants involving multiples (with only a minor exception).

The Warranties For Multiples Under Article 15 of the ACAL

Under Section 15.11 of the ACAL, information provided by art merchants pursuant to Article 15 creates an express warranty.  And, when such information is not supplied by an art merchant because it is not applicable, that constitutes an express warranty that such required information is not applicable.  Id.  § 15.11.

 Post-1949 Multiples Warranty

If the multiple being sold was produced after 1949 and “is offered as one of a limited edition, this shall be so stated, as well as the number of multiples in the edition, and whether and how the multiple is numbered.”  Id.  § 15.03(6)(a);  see id. § 15.05.  “Unless otherwise disclosed,” the number of multiples stated “shall constitute an express warranty … that no additional numbered multiples of the same image, exclusive of proofs, have been produced.”  Id.  § 15.03(6)(b); see Id. § 15.05.

 Post-1982 Multiples Warranty

For multiples produced after January 1, 1982, the number of multiples stated “shall also constitute an express warranty … that no additional multiples of the same image, whether designated ‘proofs’ other than trial proofs, numbered or otherwise, have been produced in an amount which exceeds the number in the limited edition by twenty or twenty percent, whichever is greater.  Id. § 15.03(6)(c).  “If the number of multiples exceeds the number in the stated limited edition[,] … the number of proofs other than trial proofs, or other numbered or unnumbered multiples, in the same or other prior editions, produced from the same master … and whether and how they are signed and numbered” must be stated. Id.  § 15.03(6)(d).

Remedies Under Article 15

Violations of Article 15 warranties carry potentially steep penalties.  Purchasers of multiples may recover from the art merchant treble damages and attorneys’ fees if an art merchant offers, consigns or sells a multiple and:

  1.  Wilfully fails to provide the required information;
  2. Knowingly provides false information; or
  3. The purchaser can establish that the merchant willfully and falsely disclaimed knowledge as to any required information.  Id. at § 15.15.

October 30, 2013

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