Luke Harris

For practice areas see below

Chambers & Partners 2016 (Art & Cultural Property, Band 1): "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 2015 (Art & 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."


Luke has a commercial chancery practice with an emphasis on claims involving chattels, bailment, trusts, contentious probate, the administration of estates, the 1975 Act and proprietary estoppel. Luke has particular expertise in claims involving art and antiquities and he regularly acts for and against states, public bodies, museums and galleries, auction houses, private individuals and insurers in claims involving objects of cultural and artistic value. He is a Band 1 listed junior in the field of Art & Cultural Property in Chambers & Partners 2016. Luke's commercial practice includes claims involving commercial chattels, the sale of goods, personal and proprietary tracing claims and restitution.



Recent cases include:

  • Nutley v Lord (2015). The claim was effectively a kin enquiry. The deceased died intestate and his estate was distributed to a branch of his family believed to have been entitled on his death. The claimants brought a claim to recover the estate on the basis that there had been a wrongful distribution. The claimants asserted a superior entitlement on the intestacy. Luke acted for the insurer of the PR who had administered the estate.
  • 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 challenging the validly of a 'deathbed' homemade will (want of due execution, want of testamentary capacity, want of knowledge and approval and undue influence). Luke also acted in 2015 for the siblings in the 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. The executor and the company alleged that the money was paid under contract entered into between the company and deceased before her death. The charities disputed the veracity and/or enforceability of the agreement, brought a claim against the executor for an account and asserted a claim against the company based on equitable tracing, knowing receipt, breach of fiduciary duty, Re Diplock and unjust enrichment.
  • 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 claims against the trustees in contract, unjust enrichment and by subrogation to the former trustee's lien on the fund.
  • Re Inchbald (2014) Instructed to bring an application for specific disclosure on behalf of the principal beneficiary of a £20m estate in connection with his defence of a probate claim.
  • Re DK [2011] EWHC 2453 (COP). Instructed on behalf of the deputy of a patient of the Court of Protection in respect of an application by the deputy for an order allowing her to arrange for a DNA test to be conducted to determine whether the patient was the biological father of a third party. The case raised (and resolved) an important question about the scope of the court's jurisdiction in such matters under the Family Law Reform Act 1969 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
  • Rafferty v Philp [2011] EWHC 705 (Ch). Instructed for the claimant in a claim for directions as to whether a freehold property was an asset of the estate a deceased husband, or of the estate of his deceased widow or of a trust declared by the widow before her death, and for relief against the defendant who had misappropriated the sale proceeds. The court gave guidance as to the principles for construing of lifetime declarations of trust.


Art and Cultural Property

Recent cases include:

  • Condella v Woolsgrove (2016). Instructed on a claim arising out of the sale of three Dutch cannons recovered from the wreck of the HMS London, an English warship sunk approximately a mile off Southend in 1665. Luke acts for the purchaser of the Cannons who bought them at auction. The Crown has since intimated a claim. The case raises the Crown's rights under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
  • Rountree v Rendall (2015). Instructed in a claim concerning a Winslow Homer watercolour, 'Children Under a Palm', discovered on a tip in Ireland and identified on the Antiques Roadshow. Luke acted for the daughter of the finder in the ensuing title dispute between the finder's daughter and a descendant of the children in the painting. The case raises questions of both English and Irish law of finding and limitation.
  • 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, is due to the auctioneer upon the sale of a painting of very great value.
  • The Estate of a Prominent Artist (2015). Instructed for the beneficiaries of the will of a prominent modern artist. There were suspicions that shortly before her death the artist had been tricked into making gifts of paintings to a friend. The beneficiaries sought to recover any paintings remaining in the donee's hands.
  • Re A Painting (2014). Instructed to advise the GAC on its claims regarding a painting that once hung in a British embassy. The painting disappeared during WWII and was later purchased at auction by the current holder, a wealthy entrepreneur.
  • 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 at all times acting as his agent and did not have title to sell to the purchaser.
  • Re An Art Partnership (2014). Instructed on the rights of the partners under an informal partnership, partly written and partly oral, established to research and market paintings by Monet and Friedrich. The relationship between the partners had broken down and one of them had seized the works. Luke advised on claims for an account, contractual damages, specific performance, constructive trusts and breach of fiduciary duty.
  • The Sekhemka Statue (2014). Instructed for Northampton Borough Council in the well-publicised dispute between the Council and the Marquess of Northampton over title to the ancient Egyptian statue. The case raised difficult questions about the precise legal nature of conditional gifts at common law.
  • Day v. Harris & Day v. Royal College of Music [2014] Ch. 211. Instructed as sole counsel at trial in February 2012 and as junior counsel in relation to two appeals to the Court of Appeal heard in January 2013 concerning the estate of the late Sir Malcolm Arnold, the well-known musician and composer. Among the issues arising was the question of title to a large number of manuscripts of Sir Malcolm's works which are currently held by the Royal College of Music.
  • Re Irish Heirlooms (2012) Luke advised on his claim to family silver, paintings and robes once held under a strict settlement of land. The settlement was created by will in the late 19th century. Luke's advice turned on such matters as the status of the entailed interest created under the original settlement, the true construction of the a will in the 1950s and the effect of numerous dealings with the goods (physically and on paper) over the course of 20th Century including a purported declaration of trust in a court order.
  • Spencer v S Franses Ltd.[2011] EWHC 1269 (QBD). The claim concerned old and valuable gold embroideries bailed by the claimant to the defendant in order that the defendant could study them and then sell them for commission. The defendant resisted the claim on the basis of a lien arising in contract and bailment. Luke represented the defendant up to (but not at) trial. The defendant ultimately succeeded at trial.



Recent cases include:

  • 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.



  • PLC online practice notes (with Norman Palmer QC): 'Bailment: Introduction', 'Bailment: Types of Bailment'.
  • Contributor to the following books: Taking it Personally: the Individual Liability of Museum Personnel (2011), The Encyclopedia of Forms & Precedents (Sale of Goods) (2002 & 2011), Palmer, Bailment (3rd edn, 2009).
  • Contributor to the forthcoming edition of The Encyclopedia of Forms & Precedents (Sale of Goods).
  • Recent articles include: Marley v Rawlings: a treasure chest for the probate practitioner, Private Client Business (2014), 'Day v RCM: When is a gift not a gift?', Trusts & Trustees (2013); 'Ownership of a Fund', Butterworths Journal of International Banking & Financial Law (2012); The Criminal Liability of Corporations, Art, Antiquities & Law (2008). Forthcoming article 'The Role of Trusts in Cultural Property Claims', Art, Antiquity & Law.



  • Central Law Training. All day courses: '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.
  • STEP Norwich (2015): 'Estate litigation over title to works of art and other valuable chattels'.
  • The Liability of Experts for the Misattribution of Works of Art, Zurich (2012).
  • Litigating Personal Property Claims in the English Courts, International Manumed Conference in Alexandria (2009).
  • Numerous in-house talks to solicitors firms.



Luke has been invited to teach on a proposed LLM in Art, Commerce and Law at Queen Mary University of London.


Professional Qualifications/Membership

  • Called: 2001, Inner Temple
  • Chancery Bar Association
  • PAIM (Professional Advisers to the International Art Market)
  • Institute of Art & Law (Fellow, 2015)



  • 2001 Inns of Court School of Law
  • 2000 University College London, LLB (Hons), 1st Class