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Nikas, Luke
Direct Tel: +1 212-849-7228, Direct Fax: +1 212-849-7100
New York
Tel: +1 212 849 7000 Fax: +1 212 849 7100

Luke Nikas is a partner in the firm’s New York office.  His clients entrust him with their most significant legal challenges, in both trials and appeals.  He is widely recognized as one of the top lawyers in the country and has been selected as a Law360 MVP and named to Lawdragon’s list of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America, Lawdragon’s list of the 500 Leading Plaintiff Financial Lawyers in the category of Business Litigation, Benchmark Litigation’s “Under 40 Hot List,” Crain’s New York 40 Under 40, the New York Law Journal’s list of Rising Stars, the Best Lawyers in America, and the Super Lawyers list by New York Super Lawyers.  He has been described in The Legal 500 as “whip-smart,” in Lawdragon as a “litigation star,” and in Chambers USA as “a sharp litigator and tough lawyer who knows how to do aggressive … litigation when the stakes are high.  He is very good at what he does.”  Chambers USA further states that “Luke is an exceptional attorney” and is “absolutely amazing on his feet; he can come into court and have no notes.  His trial experience and ability to convey and argue for clients is just top-notch.” Luke has also been praised for his highly creative solutions in seemingly intractable cases:  in a recent matter, Reuters lauded Luke for his “uncommonly interesting lawyering” and called his strategy a “pièce de résistance” and “surprise move” that “completely blindsided” his opponents.  He has been honored as a “Litigator of the Week” by The American Lawyer.

Luke represents individuals and companies in almost every type of litigation across the globe, including in an array of industries such as art, advertising, banking, consumer goods, law firm business, insurance, pharmaceutical, health care, professional sports, media and entertainment, technology, and real estate.  He has represented numerous Fortune 50, 100, and 500 companies, prominent individuals, and high-net worth individuals, and has been called upon as a trusted advisor by these and other clients involved in highly sensitive matters that require sound judgment and discretion and in disputes where civil, criminal, and public relations concerns intersect.  Among several other cases, Luke recently prevailed at trial in a multi-million dollar dispute between two managing partners of a significant New York City law firm, obtained the dismissal of a $400 million class action against a New York City real estate firm, won an appeal in the New York State Court of Appeals on behalf of workers who cleaned up downtown Manhattan after 9-11, and won hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of clients in antitrust price-fixing cases.  During the credit crisis, Luke advised several investment banks regarding approximately $200 billion in troubled credit transactions.

Luke also is Co-Chair of the firm’s Art Litigation and Disputes Practice and has one of the most prominent and successful art litigation practices in the world.  A prominent art publication called him one of the most “highly influential” art lawyers in the world after he led the defense in an art forgery case dubbed by ArtNews as “The Art Trial of the Century.”  The media has called him a “star art litigator,” he was awarded the 2021 “Art Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers, he’s been described in the New York Times as a “top art lawyer,” and Reuters has observed that “[i]f there’s a high-stakes fight in the art world, there’s a good chance … Luke Nikas is front and center.”  He represents several of the most significant participants in the art world, including major artists, art foundations, museums and museum directors, art collectors, dealers, galleries, auction houses, conservators, and art investment companies.  Among several other matters, he has recovered priceless works of art by Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso; prosecuted and defended fraud, contract, negligence, and racketeering cases involving allegations of forgery and problematic provenance; located stolen artwork in foreign jurisdictions and countries; litigated disputes regarding art contracts and transactions, ownership of art, and transfers under the UCC; obtained insurance coverage for clients facing art-related lawsuits; advised catalogues raisonné about litigation risk management; handled numerous copyright and trademark matters for artists, companies, and foundations, including issues related to fair use, non-infringement, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act; and advised prominent individuals regarding repatriation issues.  He has also advised clients regarding the sales and attempted sales of NFTs, and recently obtained a preliminary injunction in federal court that successfully prevented the sale of an unauthorized NFT of a well-known music album.

Luke is sought after for his expertise and commentary.  He has been profiled and interviewed extensively, including by Bloomberg, Gagosian Quarterly, and Lawdragon.  He has been interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CBS’s 60 Minutes, CNBC’s show American Greed, and for various podcasts, movies, a Netflix documentary, news articles, and publications.  He co-founded an international arbitration court, called the Court of Arbitration for Art, that is dedicated to the resolution of art law disputes and was nominated for “Best Innovation” in the field of arbitration by the Global Arbitration Review.  He has also given numerous lectures and presentations, including at the New York State Legislature, National Arts Club, Columbia Law School, New York University Law School, University of Southern California Intellectual Property Institute, Sotheby’s Art Institute, the Gagosian Artists’ Archives & Estates Symposium, the New York City Bar Association’s Art Law Committee, and the International Arbitration Club of New York. 

Luke earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude in the top 10% of his class.

Luke has deep experience representing clients in disputes arising out of several industries, including the following notable matters:

  • Represented New York City real estate firm in $400 million class action regarding condominium conversion, successfully obtaining complete dismissal of case.
  • Represented New York City real estate firm in appeal of adverse trial verdict, obtaining reversal of verdict.
  • Successfully represented New York City real estate firm in litigation against former joint venture partner.
  • Represented workers who cleaned up downtown Manhattan after 9-11, prevailing on appeal in the New York State Court of Appeals.
  • Represented Fortune 100 investment banks in disputes over $200 billion of troubled mergers, navigating disputes to successful resolution.
  • Represented world-class athlete in contract dispute with former coach, successfully obtaining complete dismissal of the case on a motion to dismiss.
  • Representing famous actor in defamation litigation.
  • Representing famous musician and recording company in matter involving the sale of an unauthorized NFT, successfully obtaining a preliminary injunction to stop the sale of the NFT.
  • Represented major corporation in purchase price adjustment dispute arising out of acquisition, obtaining successful settlement of the matter.
  • Recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for clients in antitrust price-fixing cases involving international cartels.
  • Successfully represented the managing partner of a major New York City law firm in litigation regarding one of the most complicated law firm dissolutions to-date, involving tens of thousands of firm clients.
  • Defended First Amendment rights of Pulitzer Prize-winning author in responding to grand jury subpoenas seeking confidential information.
  • Successfully represented CBS in response to subpoena seeking trade secrets, obtaining protection against disclosure of document.
  • Represented manufacturer in First Amendment action against N.Y. State, resulting in successful invalidation of state law.
  • Represented nationwide pharmacy group in litigation against distributor, successfully obtaining emergency restraining order that preserved the flow of life-saving medications.
  • Represented former U.S. ambassador in dispute with insurance companies, resulting in coverage that had been previously denied.
  • Successfully represented minority owner of business in dissolution litigation and other disputes regarding the breakup of the business.
  • Successfully represented significant multi-level marketing company in arbitration with former distributor of products.

Luke has represented prominent artists, collectors, art galleries, foundations, estates, art investment firms, art dealers, conservators, and others in art-related cases, including the following notable matters:

  • Successfully recovered Andy Warhol painting of Elizabeth Taylor for Andy Warhol Foundation in lawsuit against Warhol’s bodyguard.
  • Successfully defended Andy Warhol Foundation in several lawsuits seeking authentication of artwork, winning complete dismissal and prevailing on appeal.
  • Successfully defended Andy Warhol Foundation in defense of lawsuit relating to the ownership of Warhol works depicting Wayne Gretzky.
  • Successfully represented Andy Warhol Foundation in lawsuit against insurance company seeking to recover under D&O and E&O insurance policies related to art-authenticity litigation.
  • Representation of Andy Warhol Foundation against photographer in high-profile copyright litigation involving whether Andy Warhol’s works depicting the music artist Prince made fair use of photographs of Prince.
  • Represented Ann Freedman, former president of Knoedler Gallery, one of the most prominent art galleries in the world before its closure, in ten lawsuits arising from $60 million in sales of forged artwork previously believed to be by Abstract Expressionist artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Clyfford Still, bringing all investigations and cases to a successful ending.
  • Successfully recovered stolen Pablo Picasso painting for art collector Wilma Tisch.
  • Representation of Morgan Art Foundation Ltd., the long-time patron of the artist Robert Indiana, famous for his LOVE sculpture, in litigation involving the works of Robert Indiana.
  • Representation of several museum directors and executive directors in negotiating departures from world-renowned museums and foundations.
  • Representation of internationally recognized artist in copyright disputes stemming from the sale of works in the United States and abroad.
  • Representation of major auction house in defense of lawsuit by consignor related to the termination of a consignment agreement during COVID, successfully obtaining a complete dismissal of the case.
  • Successful representation of major New York City gallery in disputes in both Paris and New York against potential purchaser regarding failed art transaction.
  • Successful representation of artist Peter Beard in defense of litigation with celebrity David Spade regarding authenticity of Beard’s work and the Beard Studio’s authentication practices.
  • Representation of significant foundation in litigation related to construction of 180,000 square foot art center.
  • Representation of prominent California-based estate regarding the theft of significant works of art.
  • Representation of prominent collectors regarding repatriation issues concerning works in art collection.
  • Representation of art investment firm in bankruptcy proceedings involving the theft of art by a New York art dealer.
  • Representation of art conservator in litigation, risk assessment, and advice in relation to transactions with museums and auction houses regarding the conservation and evaluation of fine art.
  • Representation of Fortune 100 company in copyright litigations involving use of artworks in social media.
  • Representation of various catalogues raisonné regarding litigation risk management and advice.
  • Harvard Law School
    (J.D., magna cum laude)
  • State University of New York at Albany
    (B.A., summa cum laude, Philosophy)
    • Phi Beta Kappa
    • Presidential Scholar
  • The State Bar of New York
  • Law Clerk to the Honorable William J. Holloway, Jr.:
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America, Art Law (2021)
  • Crain’s New York Business, 40 Under 40 Award (2020)
  • 500 Leading Lawyers in America, Lawdragon, Business Litigation (2017-2020)
  • 500 Leading Plaintiff Financial Lawyers, Lawdragon (2017-2020)
  • MVP award, Law360 (2019)
  • 40 & Under Hot List, General Commercial, Benchmark Litigation (2016, 2018, 2019)
  • The Legal 500, General Commercial Disputes, Honored as “Next Generation Partner”
  • Best Lawyers in America, BestLawyers (2018-2021)
  • Litigator of the Week, The American Lawyer (2019)
  • Super Lawyers List, New York Super Lawyers (2018-2020)
  • “Rising Star,” New York Law Journal (2018)
  • New York Rising Star, Super Lawyers (2015, 2016, 2017)
  • Listed among the most “highly influential” art lawyers in the world (2016)
  • Professional Responsibility Award, Northeast Region of the Association of Corporate Counsel (2006)
  • Art Law, chapter in Robert Haig, ed., Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Court (5th Ed., forthcoming).

  • The Mediation and Arbitration of International Art Disputes, The Art Law Review (2021).

  • Copyright Does Not Transfer with the Gift, Chapter 24 in Give and To Receive: A Handbook on Collection Gifts and Donations for Museums and Donors (American Alliance of Museums, 2nd Ed. 2020).

  • Firm Memorandum, Appropriation Art: An International Divide (Oct. 2019).

  • Firm Memorandum, Rentmeester v. Nike: Copyright Protection for Photography (Jan. 2019).

  • A Complete View of the Cathedral: Claims of Tortious Interference and the Specific Performance Remedy in Mergers and Acquisitions Litigation, 3 University of Michigan Journal of Private Equity & Venture Capital Law 1 (2014).

  • Rethinking the Use of Foreign Law and Public Consensus: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Inconsistent Methods for Defining Constitutional Rights, 13 Lewis & Clark Law Review 1007 (2009).

  • Tenth Circuit Litigators Beware: The Intersection of Rules 26 and 56, Hackworth v. Progressive and the Celotex Trilogy, 32 Oklahoma City University Law Review 355 (2007).
  • Member, Art Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association
  • Member, Professional Advisors to the International Art Market