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Art Dealer Wins $10 Million Commission on Sale of Impressionist Masterpiece

An art dealer has won a $10 million commission following the sale of a Paul Gaugain masterpiece – but had he taken legal advice at the outset and signed a written contract, he might well have saved himself the trouble of a costly High Court trial.

The painting, one of the impressionist master’s celebrated depictions of life on the island of Tahiti, was owned by a family trust prior to its sale to the Emir of Qatar for $210 million. The dealer claimed that his commission had been expressly or impliedly agreed, but that was hotly disputed by the trust’s three trustees.

Ruling in the dealer’s favour following a nine-day trial, the Court found that he and two of the trustees had, during a meeting, reached a consensus that the commission would be paid if a sale price of $210 million was achieved. The trustees had gone beyond merely expressing an intention and had entered into a binding commitment that had contractual force. The commission was payable by the trust to a limited liability partnership run by the dealer and his wife.

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