About Barbara T. Hoffman

Principal Barbara Hoffman Portrait of Barbara Hoffman
Philip Pearlstein © 2009

Location: New York, New York

Phone: 212-873-6200

Fax: 212-974-7245

Email: Email Me

Barbara T. Hoffman, principal, is a pre-eminent arts, cultural heritage and cultural institution lawyer in New York City providing transactional advice and litigation services to the domestic and international arts and cultural community. Her more than 35 years in the field of art law, representing artists, museums, collectors, artist and other charitable foundations, galleries and foreign governments has given her wide expertise on matters involving art, antiques and cultural property transactions, including art gallery and auction house consignments, gifts of art, copyright and artist's rights, and nonprofit issues of governance and conflict of interest. She is a pioneer in the field of public art and developed, for the New York City Bar Association, the model contract for the field. She has represented a majority of renowned artists working in the public realm with projects worldwide involving large scale private and public scales from memorials to AIA award-winning artist-architect collaborations from Battery Park to Shanghai and points in between. She is included in New York Magazine's Best Lawyers for 2010-2011, 2012, Marquis Who's Who and Super Lawyers (2010-2016), and the Wall Street Journal Best Women Lawyers in New York (2016). She is a Fellow of the American Bar Association.

Ms. Hoffman litigates and counsels in the intellectual property and related areas such as author's rights, publishing, film, TV and entertainment, Internet and news media. Ms. Hoffman has successfully resolved numerous copyright claims, as well as right of publicity and privacy claims pre-summary judgment on behalf of artists, photographers and photographer's estates. In addition to litigation, Ms. Hoffman understands the importance of maximizing intellectual property assets to protect the intellectual property of her clients. She counsels on a wide variety of complex copyright and licensing issues in the traditional as well as new media. Representative matters include licensing of characters, theatrical performances, images and literary works and advising on all legal matters related to the production and distribution of film and TV product. She is the editor of the Exploiting Image Archives in New Media (Kluwer Law 1996).

Not surprisingly as an art lawyer, Ms. Hoffman is passionate in her representation of visual artists and entrepreneurs. Ms. Hoffman's innovative and creative approach to lawyering has resulted in precedent-setting legal decisions on behalf of artists in copyright, fair-use and moral rights, art litigations having represented successfully the plaintiff in Ringgold v. Black Entertainment Television, Inc., 126 F.3d 70 (2d Cir. 1997), establishing copyright protection for visual images on parity with that of music in film and television, the defendant in Barris v. Hamilton et al., No. 96 Civ. 9541, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7225 (S.D.N.Y. May 14, 1999), Flack v. Friends of Queen Catherine, Inc. et al., 139 F. Supp. 2d 526 (S.D.N.Y. 2001), establishing the artist's droit moral (right of integrity) in a public sculpture commission, and Daniel Morel in Agence France Presse v. Morel, No. 10 Civ. 2730 (WHP), 2011 WL 147718 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2011), No. 10-cv-2730 (AJN), 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155416 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 3, 2014) involving the theft of a photojournalist's images from the Internet by AFP, Getty Images, CNN, ABC and CBS.

Ms. Hoffman represents a wide range of corporate, institutional and individual clients including prominent visual artists and their estates, museums, galleries, architects, photographers and leading photo agencies, advertising agencies, authors, publishers, entrepreneurs, Internet provider, and content distribution companies. She has been counsel to award winning film and TV productions and documentary producers including numerous international co-productions.

Because of her widely recognized expertise, she has been a frequent invited speaker at conferences and CLE programs. Recent speaking engagements have been at the New York City Bar Association, New York University, Yale University School of Law, the Lalit Kala, New Delhi, India, MAXXI, Rome, the De Young Museum, San Francisco, California and the United States Chamber of Commerce, Shanghai, China, and the Foreign Ministry, Asunción, Paraguay.

As an active participant in the sectors she serves, Ms. Hoffman, through various leadership positions has influenced an understanding of the law as it affects her various constituencies and is often at the forefront of new developments and future trends. For example, she participated as a representative of the College Art Association at the USPTO Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) where she initiated the image-based task force. She is a former Chair of the International Bar Association Committee on Art, Cultural Institutions and Heritage Law and the Chair of the New York City Bar Association Committee on Art Law. She was also the first woman associate professor of law at Seattle University School of Law (formerly UPS) where she taught for 10 years before returning to full-time legal practice in New York.

Ms. Hoffman served for 10 years as outside counsel to the College Art Association, is a former board member of Art Table, New York Women in Film and Television, the Williams Art Conservation Institute, the Explorers Club, where she was also chair of the legal committee and AICA, the International Association of Art Critics. She currently serves inter alia on the Boards of Performa, the Any One Can Fly Foundation, Currents - Art and Music, and the Salvador Dali Foundation.

She has continued through her writing, advocacy and client representation to define the law as it applies to new information technologies and the image and art world. See Kluwer: Hoffman ed., "Exploiting Images and Image Collections in the New Media: Gold Mine or Legal Minefield?" She has also attended regularly as an invited VIP guest and speaker at major biennales- Venice, San Paolo, Documenta, Münster, and art fairs Basel, Miami Basel, the Indian Art Fair, ARCO, FIAC and Frieze since the 1980s. She is fluent in French, Spanish and Italian.

Ms. Hoffman began her law career as an assistant corporate counsel for the City of New York. She then was a full-time associate professor of law from 1975-1985 teaching constitutional law, land use and property, art law and intellectual property. In 1985, she returned to full-time legal practice in New York City. She also taught Art and the Law at the School of Visual Arts, Fashion Institute of Technology, and courses in U.S. Copyright Law in the Master of Law Program at the Université of Lyon, Lyon, France. In June 2007, she developed an international art law course for St. Johns University School of Law in Rome.

Areas of Practice

  • Art Law, Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property Litigation; and Related Areas

Bar Admissions


  • New York, 1972
  • District of Columbia, 1979
  • Washington, 1982


  • S.D.N.Y.
  • 2nd Circuit
  • Western District of Washington
  • Ninth Circuit
  • Supreme Court


  • Columbia Law School , New York, New York J.D., Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar
  • Brown University B.A., cum laude
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies M.A., with Honors
  • London School of Economics M.A., with Honors
  • Science Po 3 Ieme Cycle, Paris; Ecole de Louvre; Centre du Recheiche d' Ubanisme

Mediation Training and Panels

Faculty Positions and Lectureships

  • Professor, Seattle University School of Law, 1975-1985
  • Law Faculty, Jean Moulin 3, Lyon, France 2000-2006
  • Columbia University, School of Architecture and Planning, Invited Lecturer
  • Art and Law, School of Visual Arts
  • Art and Law, Fashion Institute of Technology
  • ALI-ABA Legal Issues in Museum Administration
  • Underwater Cultural Heritage, Siracusa, Italy, 2005
  • CLE International: Visual Arts and the Law
  • Representative, College Art Association at the USPTO Conference on Fair Use (CONFU)
  • Developed and Taught International Art Law Course for St. Johns University School of Law in Rome, June, 2007

Recent Honors and Awards

  • New York Best Lawyers 2010-2016
  • Super Lawyers, 2010-2016
  • Marquis Best Lawyers, America
  • Marquis Who's Who
  • New York Times Top Women Attorneys in Metro New York, 2014-2016
  • Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation Award for Contributions Made to American Visual Artists, 2009

Boards and Professional Associations

  • International Bar Association, Committee on Art, Cultural Institutions and Heritage Law, Former Chair from 1990
  • New York City Bar Association , Former Chair, Committee on Art Law 1993-1996
  • New York City Bar Association Council on International Affairs, Present
  • Panel Expert, Member, International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Committee on Legal, Administrative and Financial Issues 2005- present
  • Friends of the National Museum of Mali, President and Founder
  • Performa, Board and Secretary, 2005-Present
  • Currents Art and Music, Board of Directors
  • Anyone Can Fly Foundation, Board of Directors
  • International Association of Art Critics, AICA, Counsel
  • Salvador Dali Foundation
  • The Cultural Property Round Table, New York City Bar Association, Chair and Producer
  • Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association
  • International Foundation for Art Research ("IFAR"), Legal Advisory Committee
  • Contemporary Arts Council, MoMA
  • Williams Art Conservation Institute, Former Trustee
  • Advisor, UNESCO World Heritage Convention, Sienna, 2002
  • New York Women in Film and Television, Former Board Member
  • Art Table, Former Board Member
  • Explorers Club, Former Secretary and Chair Legal Committee
  • The International Federation of Women in Legal Careers, Board member and US representative

Selected Cases

  • Agence France Presse v Morel, 769 F. Supp. 2d 295 (SDNY 2013)

    Represented photographer Daniel Morel in copyright infringement action for more than $120,000,000, against AFP, Getty Images and the Washington Post in litigation arising from wire services unauthorized use of photographs of the 2010 Haiti earthquake posted on Twitpic. Morel settled with in-house counsel of CBS, ABC and CNN for separate infringements arising out of use of the photographs. A federal judge in New York ruled that Twitter does not give AFP license to steal images of Haitian photo journalist.

    • Click here to view to the Press Release
    • Click here to view the court opinion
  • United States v The Painting Known as Le Marché, 648 F. 3d 84 (2d Cir 2011)

    Innocent owner Defense did not apply to §1595a(c) customs claim notwithstanding the Civil Asset Forfeiture Law of 2000 enacted to protect innocent owners and total lack of evidence of any customs violation. Unprecedented application of
    the National Stolen Property Act to defeat state property law and statute of limitations.

  • Flack v Friends of Queen Catherine, 139 F. Supp. 2d 526; 2001. (April 18, 2001)

    Represented successful plaintiff Audrey Flack in a Visual Artists Rights case arising out of foundry and not-for-profit organizations willful distortion and mutilation of a sculpture of Queen Catherine of Braqanza. Court denied motion to dismiss VARA and copyright claims and held that notwithstanding, VARA's exclusions, Flack's sculptural model (maquette) fell within the scope of VARA and that the completion of the sculpture by her assistant stated a claim for violation of her moral rights as an artist under VARA.

  • Ringgold v Black Entertainment Television, Inc., 126 F. 3d 70 (2d Cir 1996)

    Represented successful plaintiff Faith Ringgold in copyright infringement lawsuit involving use of unlicensed poster in a sitcom. BET's defense of de minimis and fair use rejected by the Second Circuit. Changed film and TV industry practice of using artwork without a license in film and TV.

  • Finley v NEA, 795 F. Supp. 1457 (C.D. Calif. 1992)

    Amicus Brief filed on behalf of College Art Association and Pen Writers Association cited by the District Court in finding that the decency restrictions placed on NEA funding constituted an unconstitutional abridgement of speech in violation of the First Amendment.

  • Columbus America Discovery Group v Atlantic Mutual Insurance (4th Cir June 14, 1995)

    Amicus Brief filed on behalf of the Explorers Club for the Columbus America Discovery Group formed in 1985 to conduct multidisciplinary research, to develop deep ocean technology, and to explore and recover the remains of the SS Central America. The Group raised over 10 million dollars with the help of 161 investors. The group recovered over 100 million dollars in gold and treasure off the east coast of the U.S. to which 39 insurance companies made claims.

  • George Barris v Richard Hamilton, Tate Gallery and D'Offay Gallery, 1999, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7225 (S.D.N.Y. May 17, 1999).

    Successfully represented Richard Hamilton and the Tate Gallery in a copyright infringement action brought by photographer George Barris against appropriation artist Richard Hamilton. The case illustrates the complications which can arise when domestic and international copyright laws intersect, particularly with regard to publication and renewal formalities.

Selected Pro Bono Activities

  • Founder and President of the Friends of the National Museum of Mali 2012
  • Founder and President of the Washington Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, 1976-1983
  • College Art Association, Executive Committee, Counsel, 1986-1996
  • Museum Attorneys Group since 2000
  • ARPAI, Association for the Restoration of Italian Cultural Heritage 1995-present
  • Department of State - Advisor UNIDROIT Treaty 1995
  • College Art Association, Delegate to CONFU-USPTO
  • UN Delegate and Representative to Nairobi Women's Conference
  • UN Representative of the International Federation of Women in Legal Careers UN Advisor for the Sierra Club


  • French
  • Spanish
  • Italian