Luke Harris
Junior counsel

Luke Harris

Call to Bar:2001

Chambers & Partners

He is the go-to junior for art cases. Very good with clients and excellent at delivering quality advice, he's well versed in the area of bailment and the more esoteric aspects of art and cultural property law.

Luke has a commercial chancery practice and has particular expertise in claims involving art and antiquities in claims involving objects of cultural and artistic value. He is currently the only Band 1 listed junior in the field of Art & Cultural Property in Chambers & Partners 2018. Luke’s commercial practice includes claims involving commercial chattels, the sale of goods, personal and proprietary tracing claims and restitution.

5 Stone Buildings - brick wall
Legal 500 2020

A standout junior who is great with technical legal arguments.

Chambers and Partners High Net Worth 2019

He's very bright and goes the extra mile for clients. Very thorough and really good with clients - he's excellent at hand-holding clients who are sensitive and emotional.

Chambers and Partners High Net Worth 2019

No detail will ever be missed, no stone unturned - he's one of the most thorough people I've ever met. When you require a really careful look, he's the perfect person for it.

Chambers UK Bar Guide 2018 (Art and Cultural Property, Band 1)

Clearly has a very, very good technical knowledge of the area. It must be pretty close to unparallelled.

Chambers & Partners 2018 (Chancery: Traditional, Band 4)

Has a broad spread of knowledge and will always go the extra mile for the client. He is really keen on getting the right answer and is very passionate about looking after clients.

Chambers & Partners 2017 (Art & Cultural Property, Band 1)

He is very thorough and commited to the area. His knowledge is very broad and he carries it well. He has done some very clever work.

About Luke Harris

Professional Reputation

“a hugely impressive barrister and a polished performer”

“very good on art matters”

“very good at personal property.”

“He is a robust litigator who can fight tenaciously for the client.”

“He is very well-versed in the law and shows really incisive and clear judgement when assessing matters.”

Chambers HNW, 2018 (Chancery Traditional, Band 4)

“extremely high reputation”

“very, very focused on the area”

“possibly the leading art lawyer and the person most committed to this area at the Bar at the moment”

“He is a very learned barrister – he’s very strong on a lot of the technical issues around art and museum law. He is very good on ownership issues and is a very, very good advisory lawyer.”

“Luke is excellent on complex and relatively esoteric areas of law, particularly bailment and conversion”

“I find the standard of his work excellent; he is one of the leading practitioners in the field. He’s just a walking almanac.”

Chambers HNW, 2018 (Art and Cultural Property Law, Band 1)

“Clearly has a very, very good technical knowledge of the area. It must be pretty close to unparallelled.”

“He does esoteric stuff and is fiendishly smart.”

Chambers & Partners 2018 (Art and Cultural Property, Band 1)

“Has a broad spread of knowledge and will always go the extra mile for the client. He is really keen on getting the right answer and is very passionate about looking after clients.”

Chambers & Partners 2018 (Chancery: Traditional , Band 4)

“He provides pragmatic advice on high-value cases.”

The Legal 500, 2017 (Leading Juniors; Band 1, Art and Cultural Property)

“He is very thorough and committed to the area. His knowledge is very broad and he carries it well. He has done some very clever work.” “I think he has real clarity and an ability that belies his years.”

Chambers & Partners 2017 (Art and Cultural Property, Band 1)

“Has significant expertise in handling traditional chancery cases involving art and antiques.” “A go-to junior on arts matters, who is very client friendly and who provides clear and concise advice on some of the most complex issues.”

Chambers & Partners 2016 (Art & Cultural Property, Band 1)

Art and Cultural Property

Luke undertakes contentious and non-contentious work across in all areas in the field do art and cultural property. Luke has acted in a wide range of cases involving states, public bodies, museums and galleries, auction houses, private individuals, dealers and insurers.

Recent cases include:

  • Jeddi v Sotheby’s [2018] EWHC 1491 (Comm), 15 June 2018 – acting (with Henry Legge QC) in interpleader proceedings for a successful claimant who established title to a rare, medieval rock crystal jar, held by an auction house, against the claimant’s former agent who had falsely asserted a proprietary interest in the jar
  • A Sculpture [2018] – acting for an insurer in respect of a sculpture seized by foreign law enforcement authorities
  • A Painting [2018] – acting for the owner of a work of art which was destroyed by a warehouse fire in a claim against the gallery which was looking after it
  • A Work of Art [2018] – advising in respect of an export licence for a National Treasure
  • Treasure agreement [2017] – instructed to assist in drafting of an agreement for the acquisition by a State of a national treasure
  • Williams & others v The National Gallery & others [2017] – instructed to give expert evidence on behalf of the plaintiffs on matters of English limitation and title in proceedings in a claim in the US District Court, Southern District of New York against the National Gallery and the UK in respect of Portrait of Greta Moll by Matisse, which was lost by Margarete Moll in the aftermath of World War II
  • Rountree v Rendall [2016] – instructed in a claim concerning a Winslow Homer watercolour discovered on a tip in Ireland and identified on the Antiques Roadshow. Luke acted for the daughter of the finder in the ensuing ownership dispute between the finder’s daughter and a descendant of the children in the painting
  • Re a Loyalty Agreement [2015] – instructed on behalf of the trustees of a family trust in a dispute with an auction house over what remuneration, if any, was due to the auctioneer upon the sale of a very valuable painting
  • Re A Painting [2014] – instructed to advise the Government Art Collection on its claims regarding a painting that once hung in a British embassy
  • Re A Monet [2014] – instructed in an LCIA arbitration involving a Monet purchased by the vendor at auction in England in the 1990s before being taken to Europe and sold to the purchaser, Luke’s client, in the 2000s. A third party later alleged that the vendor was acting as his agent and did not have title to sell
  • The Sekhemka Statue [2014] – instructed for Northampton Borough Council in the dispute between the Council and the Marquess of Northampton over title to the ancient Egyptian statue
  • Re An Art Partnership [2014] – instructed on the rights under a partnership to research and market paintings by Monet and Friedrich
  • Day v. Harris & Day v. Royal College of Music [2014] Ch. 211 – instructed in respect of the estate of the composer Sir Malcolm Arnold about (inter alia) title to a large number of manuscripts held by the Royal College of Music

Luke undertakes work in all areas of Chancery, particularly trusts, contentious probate, the administration of estates, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 and proprietary estoppel. Many of Luke’s cases in the field of Art and Cultural Property have a strong element of trusts and equity.

Other rent cases in the field of Chancery include:

  • Dack v Dack [2018] – acting for the claimant in a claim to revoke probate of a later will and uphold an earlier will
  • Perret v Shipton [2018] – acting for defendants to a claim based on unjust enrichment, proprietary estoppel and a constructive trust in respect of farmland left to the defendants by the deceased’s will
  • A Discretionary Trust [2018] – acting for executors and trustees of a discretionary trust of a large estate in respect of which claims have been made under the 1975 Act
  • A professional negligence claim [2017] – instructed by a charity in a professional negligence claim against solicitors in respect of the purchase by the charity of land which was ultimately unsuitable for the needs of the charity
  • RCTC v Singellos [2017] – acting for a professional PR in the long running administration of the estates of husband and wife in a claim for directions, Benjamin orders and ‘blessings’
  • Starke v Starke [2016] – instructed in a claim to remove an executor and will trustee in a position of conflict of interest, and in an intended associated claim for maladministration and breach of constructive trust
  • Application under the Variation of Trusts Act 1958 [2016] – instructed by an adult child in an application to vary a settlement of family heirlooms, under which Luke’s client held an entailed interest. Among other things, Luke advised on, and oversaw the execution of, a disentailing assurance to bar the entail.
  • Nutley v Lord [2015] – instructed in what was effectively a kin enquiry for the insurer of the PR who had administered the estate, allegedly by paying it to the wrong intestate beneficiaries
  • Re Devillebichot [2013] WTLR 1701, [2015] EWHC 3082. Instructed by the siblings of the testator in a probate claim in 2013 by the testator’s daughter to challenge the validly of a ‘deathbed’ homemade will in a satellite dispute over the costs order made in their favour at trial.
  • RNLI v Baker [2015] – instructed for national charities, including the RNLI, in a claim to recover property that had allegedly been misappropriated by an executor and paid to a connected company
  • McAllister Olivarius v Perry [2015] – instructed on behalf of a charity defending a claim by a solicitor for professional fees allegedly incurred by a former trustee of the charity. The solicitor claimed against the trustees in contract, unjust enrichment and by subrogation to the former trustee’s lien on the fund

Luke undertakes general commercial disputes involving, in particular, contractual and tortious disputes, unjust enrichment, fraud and tracing. Recent cases include:

  • Newland Shipping and Forwarding Ltd v Toba Trading FZC [2017] EWHC 1416 (Comm) – successfully acting (with Philip Edey QC) to set aside service of a claim form and default judgment which had been served out of the jurisdiction and in an associated application for relief from sanctions
  • A Portfolio of Art Works [2017] – advising on an urgent injunction and following proceedings to recover various works of art worth c. £30m, claimed by complex offshore structure, which had been the subject of various security transactions
  • Natixis v NRAM plc [2015] – instructed (with Andrew Twigger QC) for the claimant bank in this Commercial Court action concerning covered bonds issued by Northern Rock. The claimant was a currency swap provider and the issues concerned whether NRAM, the issuer of the bonds, was liable directly to Natixis for interest on the collateral it deposited pursuant to an ISDA Credit Support Annex
  • Re Lehman Brothers International (Europe)(In Administration) [2015] – instructed (with Andrew Twigger QC) to advise a bank as to whether it should seek to become a party to an application issued by the Joint Administrators of Lehmans or whether, and how, it should seek to influence the issues to be canvassed at the hearing. The issues concerned the correct calculation of interest payable in respect of sums owing to creditors under an ISDA Master Agreement and, in particular, whether the cost of funding certain sums was the same as the cost of borrowing those sums
  • Fadallah v Pollak [2013] – instructed on behalf of the claimant, the purchaser of two power generators. The seller had in fact already sold them to the defendant but had retained possession of them. The question was whether the claimant had acquired a superior title to the goods under the second sale or whether title remained with the claimant. The case turned on a complex application of the ‘seller in possession’ and ‘buyer in possession’ exceptions to nemo dat under the Factors Act and/or the Sale of Goods Act
  • Armstrong v Winnington[2013] Ch 156 – instructed for a multinational company in a claim arising out of the fraudulent misappropriation of EU Emissions Trading Scheme carbon allowances belonging to the company. A fraudster hacked into the company’s carbon allowance account in Germany and sold them to the defendant in England. The claim was for proprietary and personal relief in law and equity arising out of the fraud. It raised some interesting novel points of property law and restitution. These included whether the allowances were a ‘property’ at all and, if so, whether there was any restitutionary liability known to the common law for interfering with such intangible property and, if so, what defences exist to such a claim
Education and Qualifications
  • 2001 Inns of Court School of Law
  • 2000 University College London, LLB (Hons), 1st Class
Professional Memberships
  • Chancery Bar Association
  • PAIM (Professional Advisers to the International Art Market)
  • Institute of Art & Law (Fellow, 2015)
Publications & Lecturing

Luke contributes to PLC online practice notes (with Norman Palmer QC): ‘Bailment: Introduction’, ‘Bailment: Types of Bailment’.

Luke is a contributor to the following books: Taking it Personally: the Individual Liability of Museum Personnel (2011), The Encyclopaedia of Forms & Precedents (Sale of Goods) (2002 & 2011), Palmer, Bailment (3rd ed, 2009). Contributor to the forthcoming edition of The Encyclopaedia of Forms & Precedents (Sale of Goods).

Luke is due to begin teaching in 2017 on the LLM in Art, Commerce and Law at Queen Mary University of London.

Luke lectures for Central Law Training on: ‘Disputes over Commercial Goods: The Law and Procedure Explained’ and ‘Contentious Probate: Current Issues and Problem Areas for Practitioners’. Also ad hoc webinars and conferences on probate and estates and commercial topics. He speaks regularly to solicitors on all areas of his practice.

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