Art Attorney Cary Scott Goldinger Reveals the Hamptons World of $10 Million Paintings, Secrecy & NDAs
Sometimes, Cary Scott Goldinger will find himself sitting alone, sketching in charcoal on his pad. His subjects are very ordinary. One was a sofa, another a Weber grill. One of his favorites is his daughter’s puppy. His pencil captured the sweet face of the pup, its ears and its paws.
“It’s something I love to do, and you know what,” Goldinger says with a laugh. “Some of them ain’t half-bad.”
It’s a big statement for Goldinger considering in his everyday professional life as an art attorney he can find himself standing in a vast warehouse, showing a piece of art that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Goldinger, an attorney for four decades and founder of the Garden City-based Law Office of Cary Scott Goldinger, has built a reputation in the art world for his legal expertise, guidance and knowledge of the very exclusive world of fine art.
“Art is a very selective, unregulated world, and going through a law firm is a wise move for collectors,” he says.
Goldinger was involved in his first art deal while he was in college — unknowingly.
“I had a friend who would like to go to tag sales and flea markets. He was younger than me, and while I was away at college he was home and he called and told me he had gone to a tag sale and the homeowner told him to just take a painting that didn’t sell,” Goldinger remembers. “He called me and asked what he should do, and I told him to take it to Sotheby’s to see if it was worth anything.”
“They offered him $10,000 and he started choking. Then they offered him $13,500 and he was still choking. Finally, they offered him $18,000 so as not to insult him,” Goldinger says. “If he could have stopped choking, he would have accepted the $10,000.”
The two split the sale. His friend went on to become immersed in the art world, opening a successful gallery and becoming a part of the glitterati and lifestyle.
“He became a very well-known art dealer, but when he fell into the lifestyle it wasn’t good for him or the business,” Goldinger says.
After earning his law degree from Hofstra University School of Law, Goldinger began to build his law career and very early on opened his own law firm. He has handled many headline-grabbing cases including sexual harassment cases against the Diocese of Rockville Centre, and celebrity restaurants like Philippe Chow, and represents clients in many other areas of law, including an extensive real estate practice and is the owner of The Ultimate Agency, a full-service title company.
It is the art of negotiation that Goldinger loves, and he is not afraid to take a chance. It’s his confidence in his talents that propels him.
“I will always bet on myself,” he says.
As the years have passed, Goldinger grew his art industry profile, representing clients in multi-million-dollar art deals. That includes buying, selling, auctions and even locating art for clients. Most recently, Goldinger is actively assisting a client to sell pieces by the renowned artist Mark Rothko.
Amazingly, many of the works his clients purchase are not hanging on walls but rather in secure warehouse facilities. With fraud having always been a part of the art world, secrecy, security and anonymity reign supreme when Goldinger is representing a client.
“If I am going to show a piece to a buyer on behalf of a client, NDAs must be signed, and I will find out the name of the buyer so we know it is legitimate,” Goldinger explains.
“Art is private and unique, and there area lot of unscrupulous people in the business,” he adds. “What I am good at is negotiation. I am resourceful when seeking a good match for my clients. When my firm represents a client in an art transaction, we make everything go smoothly. We get the piece ready to be shown, handle escrow payments, act as the paymaster, do all the paperwork, and organize the transfer of the piece and distribution of the funds.”
Goldinger does not have to travel far to find clients. Although he has traversed the country handling art deals, “There is a lot of incredible art on Long Island.”
Many homes on the East End are decorated with pieces of art worth tens of millions of dollars. Some purchase these pieces for an investment, some just love owning beautiful art. With legendary painters like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, both having been fixtures in the Hamptons, the connection between the worlds is strong.
“It is quite incredible to walk into someone’s house and see a $10 million painting on the wall,” Goldinger says. “And in the Hamptons, it happens.”
Protecting a client’s art is also a critically important part of Goldinger’s work. Many pieces are put in trusts and not in individual names. While many owners like to remain anonymous, some, like music industry mogul David Geffen, are fine with the world knowing about his collection.
As for his favorite artists, Goldinger points to modern artists Amedeo Modigliani, Rothko and Clyfford Still. Goldinger is involved politically and philanthropically, including serving on the Corporate Committee for the Nassau County Museum of Art.
With the summer season knocking on the door, Goldinger and his wife are ready to spend time out east once again. Confessed foodies, the two are always in search of an exciting restaurant.
And in the time between working with clients and spending time with his family, Goldinger might grab his charcoal pencil and pad to find a new subject.
“I’ve got to be in the mood, but when I am, I want to sit in the yard with a glass of wine and sketch,” he says. “Art is an amazing thing. It’s subjective, it’s individual. And again, I ain’t too bad.”
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.