Peter R. Stern

Peter R. Stern

Of CounselNew York, NY

T: (212) 803-1299

F: (212) 448-0066




McLaughlin & Stern's art law practice is led by Peter R. Stern who is Of Counsel at the firm. Peter R. Stern maintains a general practice and has been involved with legal matters in many areas, including corporate, estate, trust and foundation matters. He is also an active litigator of commercial and contractual disputes.

Mr. Stern is equally active in representing plaintiffs and defendants in both federal and state courts. He has represented a number of nationally-known entities and persons.

Mr. Stern's general practice concentrates on art-related matters and clients who are part of the art world. He has provided general counseling to and representation of in excess of 100 galleries/dealers, 100 artists and artists' estates, many collectors, as well as a number of auction houses and insurance companies. These activities relate to a wide variety of commercial or transactional matters, such as the formation of art-related businesses or ventures and sale, consignment, loan or representation agreements.

Mr. Stern is highly experienced in art-related litigation. He has handled countless disputes relating to art, including numerous cases as to the authenticity and ownership of artworks. For nearly 25 years he was an outside counsel to a major auction house, handling in excess of 150 assignments.

Mr. Stern has been active with a number of not-for-profit institutions. In particular, he has been a member of the Board of Directors of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (1995 to date), Chairman of the Board (1999-2009) and Chairman Emeritus (2009 to date). He is also on the Art Advisory Board of the International Foundation for Art Research.

A number of published articles have written about Mr. Stern and have regularly described him as one of the leading art lawyers in the country. These include: Art & Auction, December 2009 ("The Art World's Most Influential People"); Art & Auction, August 2006; Art & Auction, December 1998 ("Power Bar"); Arts Magazine, January 1991 ("Should I Become an Art Lawyer?") and Art & Auction, October 1987 ("America's Hottest Art Lawyers").

Mr. Stern obtained his B.A. (1969) and J.D. (1972) from Columbia University, where he was writing and research editor for the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems, Mr. Stern clerked for Judge Edward R. Neaher of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (1972-1974).

Mr. Stern is admitted to the New York State bar (1973) and is admitted to practice in the bars of the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York (1973); the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (1975); the U.S. Supreme Court (1979); the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (1984); the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (1995); and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit 2001).

Mr. Stern speaks fluent French and understands Spanish.

Mr. Stern is listed in New York Superlawyers; Who's Who in America and Who's Who in American Law. He is AV® Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.


Commercial/Transactional Engagements:

Mr. Stern has counseled clients with respect to diverse matters, including:

  • Sales and purchases of art, consignment arrangements, including auction and private treaty agreements, loans of artwork. These have involved transactions in excess of $1 billion
  • Artist/dealer relations and contracts
  • Catalogue Raisonné activities
  • Organization of corporations, LLCs, partnerships and other entities
  • Purchase and sale of art businesses
  • Estate planning and administration
  • Non-profit organization activities


Litigation Engagements:

Mr. Stern has handled a large number of art-related litigation matters, many of which have not become public. As well as being highly successful in public litigations, Mr. Stern has also been successful in resolving many disputes privately and without the need of litigation in public. In particular, Mr. Stern has handled many cases relating to:

  • Authenticity of art objects. Disputes relating to such artists as Archipenko, Benton, Cassatt, de Chirico, De Kooning, Diebenkorn, Gauguin, Hine, Kensett, Kline, LaFarge, Leger, Modigliani, Picabia, Pollock, Reynolds, Riopelle, Rothko, Schwitters, and Warhol.
  • Title to property, including cases involving claims to artwork asserted by the Republic of France (Tissot painting) and the Philippines (Marcos property) and cases relating to the ownership of stolen property, including property misappropriated during World War II.
  • Artist-dealer disputes (nearly all confidential).
  • Seller-purchaser disputes, such as breaches of contract with respect to the purchase/sale of artwork, enforcement of payment obligations, misrepresentation and fraud claims.
  • Disputes relating to the loss or destruction/damage of artworks, including the representation of insurance companies as well as claimants.


Selected Important Cases (client underscored):

  • Chowaiki v. Steinhardt, Kantor and Christie's Inc. (claim for sales commission; summary judgment in favor of defendant client and award of sanctions against plaintiff and counsel)
  • Foxley v. Sotheby's (authenticity of Cassatt) (settlement)
  • Haring v. Playboy (copyright claim) (settlement)
  • Hughes v. Somers (copyright claim) (settlement)
  • Claims on behalf of photography dealers and collector clients relating to photographs falsely attributed by Walter Rosenblum to Lewis Hine (settlements)
  • Johnson v. The Smithsonian and Michael Rosenfeld Gallery (claim of title to works; dismissal of complaint against defendant client – award of sanctions against plaintiff)
  • Lehmann v. The Project (right of first refusal; $1.7 million judgment after trial on behalf of plaintiff client)
  • Malanga v. Chamberlain (replevin action)
  • McNally v. Yarnall (claim of defamation of art work attributed to La Farge; dismissal of complaint on behalf of defendant client)
  • Ogunsanya v. Langmuir (claim to ownership of collection of photographs by Diane Arbus; settlement)
  • Shaltiel v. Wildenstein (slander of title with respect to the authenticity of Modiagliani painting)
  • Travis v. Sotheby's (claim of defamation of painting attributed to Reynolds; judgment after trial in favor of defendant client)
  • US Antitrust investigation of certain art galleries/auction houses
  • Van Damme v. Gelber (enforcement of contract against reneging seller)
  • Visual Equities, Inc. v. Sotheby's (attempt to restrain sale of copy of Declaration of Independence) (settlement)
  • Robert Weil v. Mark Murray and Ian Peck (enforcement of contract to purchase Degas painting; $1.4 million judgment on behalf of plaintiff client against defendant Murray)
  • Wertheimer v. Cirker's and Marvin Inc. (claim of title to Pissarro painting) (judgment in favor of defendant client)


Speaking Engagements:

Mr. Stern has made presentations and been part of many art panels. These include:

  • New York City Bar Association – presenter. November 3, 2016. "Counseling the Parties in Multiple Dealer Art Transactions"
  • Estate Planning Council of New York City – presenter.  November 6, 2013. "Why Art is Different: The Life-Cycle of Art Ownership"
  • Atlanta Estate Planning Council in Atlanta – presenter.  September 10, 2013
  • Philadelphia Estate Planning Council in Philadelphia - presenter.  May 9, 2013
  • Union Internationale des Avocats Conference in Mexico City – presenter. December 3, 2012.  "Fakes, Forgeries and Misattributions"
  • Catalogue Raisonne Society of America panel in New York City – panelist.  March 29, 2012.  "To Authentic or Not to Authenticate"
  • International Foundation for Art Research Panel in New York City.  December 7, 2011.  "Warhol Board Stops Authenticating: Issues and Fall-Out"
  • Art Salon at Art Basel in Miami Beach.  December 1, 2011. "10 Cases and Why They Matter to You"



Members of the press frequently contact Mr. Stern to obtain his analysis or views with regard to art subjects or events in the art world. In recent years, Mr. Stern has been quoted in many articles which have appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Art & Auction, The Art Newspaper and ARTnews.


Other Activities: Theater

Mr. Stern is very active in the world of theater. He is one of the Tony award-winning producers of Pippin which won the 2013 Tony award for Best Musical Revival. Most recently, he was a co-producer of the Broadway production of The Visit (5 Tony nominations). Previous Broadway productions are Peter and the Starcatcher (5 Tony awards); It’s Only a Play (the 2014-15 season’s highest grossing new play) and Mothers and Sons (2 Tony nominations). Mr. Stern was a supporter of the Broadway production of Matilda the Musical (4 Tony awards). He is a member of the Broadway League and a Tony award voter.