The restructuring of Sotheby’s under its new owner, Patrick Drahi, is having a cascading effect on the legal community that underpins the art market. Jonathan Olsoff, long-serving general counsel of the auction house, left late last year, along with John Cahill, former general counsel at Phillips, who was in private practice for a number of years before taking a commercial role as Sotheby’s top dealmaker.
Today, the pair announced the formation of Olsoff | Cahill | Cossu LLP, a boutique art law firm that unites Olsoff and Cahill with Cahill’s former colleague in private practice, Paul Cossu, most recently a partner at Pryor Cashman. The new firm will operate in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Zurich.
That last city offers a clue to some big news here. The three lawyers are forming a strategic alliance with London law firm Joseph Hage Aaronson, led by Joseph Hage, and active in commercial litigation, arbitration, and tax disputes. In the art world, Joe Hage is a significant but rarely discussed force behind the scenes; he has deep ties to the phenomenally successful Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon markets. Hage also acts as adviser to artists, artist estates, and collectors in the art world.
As the UK adopts new anti-money-laundering protocols that may affect that local market, the new firm plans to address some possible upcoming issues by launching an ancillary company to supply a number of services concerning due diligence research, insurance, shipping, copyright clearance, escrow services, transaction structuring, and financing. “OCC’s focus is to make it secure and efficient for its clients to engage in the full range of art-related services,” Cahill explained.
Joining the firm in Los Angeles as a partner is Aimée Scala, who left a longtime editorial position at Artforum to commence her legal career in New York with Cahill Cossu, before building a fine art, entertainment, and intellectual property practice in Los Angeles. Focusing on tax, estate planning, nonprofits, philanthropic and artistic legacies, Pamela L. Grutman will be based in New York, where she earned her LLM in Taxation from NYU School of Law. Grutman, who also has a degree in architecture, is a member of the bar in New York, Florida, and New Jersey.