Lawyer Paul Bain on the love of art – and art law

The Ontario appeal court reversed this decision, with the estate of gallery owner Joseph McLeod ordered to pay the purchaser of the work, musician Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies fame, for breach of contract. However, that was after years and thousands of dollars in legal fees had been spent. “So, the cost of litigation is also a factor. And people are often reluctant to come forward and admit they were dumb or duped.

“You are saying something you have, and love is probably worthless – so it’s almost against self-interest to claim fraud.”

Bain became interested in art at a young age. Born in Montreal, his mother, Freda, was an artist, and he grew up around art and artists. While at the University of Toronto, Bain studied some art history, and later went to Osgoode Law School. He eventually started a law firm with two friends, then went out on his own. He soon realized that all the administration work “was too much to do” on his own, so he eventually joined Aylesworth, which in 2011 combined with Dickinson Wright, a U.S.-based firm with about 500 lawyers.

Bain’s clients range from major institutions like the Art Gallery of Ontario to small galleries, appraisers, auction houses, and artists. “It’s an interdependent little ecosystem,” he says.

Bain is also an avid art collector, starting when he was young – “sometimes it would take me a year to pay for a work.” While going to openings and meeting artists and gallery owners, Bain would often field legal questions, “so I needed to figure it out and understand the issues.”

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