Overview table: periods of limitation applicable to artworks transactions – France, Hungary, Italy, New York (US)

Thursday 3 August 2023
De Baecque Bellec, Paris


Various actions concerning the statute of limitations

Duration/Statute of limitations



Action for the annulment of the sale for error (on authenticity)

General statute of limitations enclosed within a dual time frame:

  • sliding five-year statute of limitations that starts from the day when the rights holder knew or should have reasonably known the facts allowing them to exercise their rights; and
  • total statute of limitations of twenty years from the day the right is born.

There is a possibility to modify the statute of limitations, except in a contract between a professional and a consumer, and regarding the liability of an auction house and its experts. It cannot be reduced to less than one year or extended to more than ten years.

Actions for liability related to auctions and appraisals

There is a five-year statute of limitations that runs from a specific and precise event: the auction sale or the estimate. 


Cancellation of the sale contract due to an error or misrepresentation

One-year time limit from the date the contract was concluded.

The cancellation can also be brought before a court within one year by the party that sent a notice for cancellation, if such cancellation was denied.

If the buyer is unable to enforce a claim for an excusable reason: the applicable statute of limitations is suspended.

In the case of an error: the statute of limitations runs until the discovery or acknowledgment of the error. A justifiable reason only suspends the running of the statute if the limitation period has already expired or if there are less than three months remaining. Negotiations between the parties also suspend the one-year time limit.

Action for breach of contract

The buyer is obliged to inform the seller of any lack of conformity without delay.

In a consumer contract: the notification is deemed to have been made in a timely manner if done within two months from the moment the error was detected.

Buyer's warranty right to receive an authentic artwork

There is a one-year time limit from the delivery of the artwork.

If the buyer is a consumer, the time limit is two years from the delivery. The parties may agree on a shorter period, but it cannot be less than one year.


Termination of the sale contract for sale of aliud pro alio (misattributed artwork is a different object than the one he had purchased)

There is a statute of limitations of ten years from the date of the sales contract. The buyer seeking termination must prove the misattribution error.

Termination of the sales contract due to relevant defects or lack of essential qualities

Eight days from the date the buyer became aware of the defect or lack of quality, and one year from the delivery of the artwork.

Cancellation of the contract due to mutual mistake or intentional misconduct by the seller

Time limit of five years from the discovery of intentional misconduct or mutual mistake by the plaintiff.

State of New York (US)

Action for breach of warranty of authenticity

The action must be brought within four years from the date the cause of action arose, which occurs when tender of delivery is made, regardless of a lack of knowledge of the breach.

An exception exists where a warranty explicitly extends to future performance and discovery of the breach must await the time of such performance; the cause of action then accrues when the breach is or should have been discovered. Courts have held that the exception for future performance is narrow and that the warranty must expressly state that the product will perform for a stipulated period of time. Parties may agree to reduce the limitation period to less than four years, as long as the limitation period is at least one year, but may not extend it. The major auction houses warrant authenticity for a period of five years. This represents a contractual agreement that the buyer can sue for breach of this warranty within five years of the sale.

Action on the grounds of mistake

The statute of limitations for both mutual and unilateral mistake is six years from the time of the breach.

Action for fraud by the buyer against the seller

There is a six-year time limit from the date of the fraud or two years from the date the fraud was discovered or, with reasonable diligence, could have been discovered.