Friday, January 30, 2015

So grand

The New York Times reports that Detroit is seizing tens of thousands of homes, from residents who failed to pay property taxes.  I haven't gotten to the portion of the Grand Bargain that deals with this, though I'm sure it must be in there somewhere.

"This is the second major forgery ring broken up in Spain in recent weeks."

Alexander Forbes has the story at artnet news.  The first one is here.

"There has been enormous support worldwide, even the Queen of Holland is on my side, so it's ridiculous."

Luc Tuymans on the copyright infringement case against him:  "We shall never surrender."

30 Part Bjorktet

Jason Farago hopes Janet Cardiff has a good lawyer.  (He's referring to this.)

This may fall more on the idea side of the idea/expression divide.

"Legal Implications of Accessing Cuban Art"

From the Center for Art Law.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Will the Sotheby’s Caravaggio Decision Impact the Practice of Authentication?"

I'm quoted in this artinfo article, the main (and correct) takeaway of which is:  "The legal realities of authentication remain convoluted, with the evidence continuing to demonstrate that authentication carries substantial legal risk."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I guess it's not so secret any more

Thomas Danziger and George Lederman at artnet:  New York DA Launches Secret Art Sales Tax Investigation.  With helpful advice on what to do if you get a call.

"The numbers don’t lie."

"At New York’s Museum of Modern Art, 24 of 1,221 works by Pablo Picasso in the institution’s permanent collection can currently be seen by visitors. Just one of California conceptual artist Ed Ruscha’s 145 pieces is on view. Surrealist Joan Miró? Nine out of 156 works."

That's from this BBC story -- "Why museums hide masterpieces away."

Michael Rushton tweets:  "Stories like this provide something of a challenge to the anti-deaccessionists, no?"

But all they ever said is that they're holding them in the public trust.  Who said anything about access?

Denial of Cert in Norton Simon Case

The Art Newspaper's Laura Gilbert has the story here.  The usual excellent analysis from Nicholas O'Donnell here.  Previous coverage here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Luc Tuymans Loses Copyright Infringement Suit in Belgium (UPDATED 2X)

Hyperallergic has the story.

Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento says:  "If this was in a New York court, and under the current Second Circuit ruling of Cariou v. Prince, we highly doubt that Tuymans’ appropriation would constitute fair use."

I would rephrase that slightly as:  "If this was in a New York court, and under the current Second Circuit ruling of Cariou v. Prince, we would have no idea whatsoever whether Tuymans’ appropriation would constitute fair use."

UPDATE:  Adrian Searle makes the case for Tuymans.

UPDATE 2:  More reactions trickling in.  LA Times art critic Christopher Knight says:  "Is making a painting of someone else's photograph plagiarism? Uh, no."  Richard Prince (yes, that Richard Prince) says instead of claiming "parody," "Tuymans just should of said, 'it's what I wanted to do.'"  And Lewis Bush at Hyperallergic:  "Luc Tuymans Case Illustrates the Failure of Europe’s Copyright Laws."

"Miller’s suit marks the latest in a string of cases involving the commercial use of street art"

New York Post:  Graffiti artist sues developer over use of images in advertising.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

How uncertainty about fair use hurts (Selma edition)

Vox's Timothy B. Lee on why the movie Selma doesn't use the actual words from MLK's speeches:  "Most likely, the problem is that studios are extremely conservative about exercising fair use rights. And they have good reason to be wary.  If Paramount had distributed a version of Selma that relied on fair use to justify using some King clips, and a court later ruled these uses were not actually fair, it would have been a financial disaster. Paramount could have been on the hook for big damages and could even have been forced to cancel showings of the movie and destroy its inventory of Selma DVDs. ... So rather than take that kind of gamble, studios almost always insist that works be licensed, even if a plausible fair use argument exists."

Avoiding the Hobby-loss Trap

Daniel Grant at the International Sculpture Center blog on the aftermath of the Susan Crile decision.

Likely Confused

I was quoted in this report by Corinna Kirsch on a trademark claim against artist Anthony Antonellis, who's selling Poland Spring water bottles filled with Chinese knockoff wristbands at the URL  Antonellis is looking for a pro bono lawyer if anyone's interested.

Friday, January 16, 2015

London court victory for Sotheby's

Via the Art Market Monitor, who's not surprised.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"MoMA has decided to auction off to the highest bidder a work in the museum's collection for over a half-century, a painting by an artist who may have produced more 'masterpieces' than any artist in Western art history"

Jerry Saltz is not happy with MoMA's imminent sale of a Monet that, until a minute ago, was held in the public trust.  Then, MoMA sprinkled the magic fairy dust on it and ... tada!  No longer held in the public trust.  So long public, hello billionaire's living room.  It's so easy!

He points out that the painting "was donated to MoMA in 1951 by New York collectors William and Evelyn Jaffe" -- but don't worry, no one will ask, "Why should I give this to you?  What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell tomorrow?"

He expects MoMA's reaction to any criticism to be "blithe, platitudinous, one-size-fits-all dismissal" -- and now I have a great new way to describe the AAMD/Deaccession Police approach to the issue:

Because the proceeds from this sale will go into bank account A ("acquisitions fund"), earning interest, it's totally fine, nothing to be concerned about at all.  But if they went into bank account B ("operating expenses"), earning interest ... hoo boy, now we've got a massive problem on our hands, a BREACH OF THE PUBLIC TRUST, get the New York Times on the phone, call out the sanctions, THIS CANNOT STAND.

That's called "ethical reasoning," if you weren't aware.

Saltz ends up endorsing a kind of Ellis Rule -- "I believe that once a work of art enters a museum collection, it should be out of play for private collections. A work in a museum collection should only be sold or go to another museum collection, where it can remain in public view and circulation" -- though he doesn't say whether he believes that, if that condition is satisfied, the proceeds must also be used only to buy more art.

One quibble in connection with this last point:  Saltz thinks "it's doubtful that this little painting will ever be seen again in public."  But as he himself notes earlier in the piece, it was once owned by the Art Institute of Chicago ... then it was owned by the Jaffes ... and then it went to MoMA.  The tax laws in this country (as well as a host of social and psychological facts) have a way of bringing these works back into the public sphere.  It's possible, of course, that we've seen the last of it, but by no means guaranteed.

Back to square one

For the artist resale royalty.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On that big story on the tax benefits of private museums

Patricia Cohen had a long and interesting story on the front page of the Business section of Sunday’s New York Times on the increasing number of private museums – where, as she puts it, the "founders can deduct the full market value of any art, cash and stocks they donate, even when the museums are just a quick stroll from their living rooms."

My general take on this is that, while there are certainly valid concerns here, one way to look at these arrangements is as part of the deal we make in order to get broader access to these (amazing) collections eventually.  As the article notes, in the past personal collections like these have “germinated into cherished institutions like the Barnes Foundation, now in downtown Philadelphia; the Frick Collection in New York; and the Phillips Collection in Washington, all of which started in private residences that showcased the masterpieces acquired by wealthy art aficionados.”  (Like some of the places mentioned in the article, the Barnes originally had limited admission by appointment only; it took a lawsuit by the Attorney General to get them to open things up.)  So think of Glenstone as a future Barnes.  Some day we will cherish the collection the way people cherish the Barnes.  If part of the price we have to pay to get there is to allow the founders to keep the collection close to their hearts (and living rooms) in the early years, that doesn’t seem like too bad a deal.  Life is short, art is long.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tell me again about the public trust (ravishing Monet edition)

MoMA is selling a Monet at Sotheby's in February.  Held in the public trust ... until they're not.

Friday, January 09, 2015


The New York Times reported this week that Christie's and Sotheby's are "back in the business of guaranteeing prices on works that they sell."  The Art Market Monitor says its a "thoroughly self-evident story."  I agree; I'm not sure why the press is so obsessed with this issue.  Carol Vogel had a similar story in the Times less than a year ago, focusing that time on the increase in third party guarantees (as opposed to in-house guarantees). Guarantees reduce the risk to the seller, and therefore attract more business to the auction houses.  What's the big deal?  For an interesting recent paper on the economics of auction house guarantees, see here.

"The year after opening its new building, annual attendance at the Barnes grew from 60,000 per year to more than 300,000."

"Last year, 285,000 people visited."

Mentioned in Randy Kennedy's NYT story on Thomas Collins becoming the new director of the Barnes.  (Collins says "To me [the Barnes's move to Philadelphis] seems like an unqualified success. I have no reservations now about it at all,  and I wouldn’t be going there if I did.")

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Is it time to bring back the Projansky contract?

A terrific piece by Kibum Kim at Hyperallergic.

So Grand

Detroit Free Press:  Detroit faces the same challenges after bankruptcy.  I thought the Grand Bargain grandly took care of all of that?

In a series of tweets, Kristi Culpepper explains the problem:

"Simple explanation of why Detroit will be back in bankruptcy in the short-term:  Their bankruptcy plan assumes that the city will pick up $841 million from new revenue and cost savings. City's revenues now are at $972 million.  And somehow they actually had experts testify that those assumptions were reasonable."

(To which Matt Fabian adds:  "[Freep] article fails to mention how there is less room for error now,  Detroit having sold the art.")

For West Coast Readers

An interesting-sounding panel, organized by Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento, on the role of the artist in the art market.

"This is not what I expected and it's certainly not satisfactory."

More trouble for former Salander director Leigh Morse.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

"For six years, the mystery surrounding one of the largest art heists in Los Angeles history baffled police."

"Then, a shadowy figure by the name of 'Darko' surfaced in Europe."

Nine stolen paintings recovered by the FBI.

"We're now in the thank-you business." (UPDATED)

Mark Stryker reports that the DIA has reached its grand bargain fundraising commitment of $100 million -- of the $816-million (and 39 cents) total.

UPDATE:  More from Randy Kennedy in the Times:  "The plan to save the collection from sale was put together after foundations, private donors and the State of Michigan raised $800 million last year, essentially to ransom the museum from city ownership."

Monday, January 05, 2015

"The fall of SOG presents, in microcosm, almost every possible way in which a secured transaction, consignment or entrustment of art or cultural property can go awry."

Good piece in the National Law Review:  The Risks of Art Consignment.

Related post here.

Court victory for Christo's Arkansas River project

Denver Post story here.  As Kriston Capps has said, Christo's medium "isn't fabric and nature, it's community hearings and Environmental Impact Statements" ... and lawsuits.

Lawsuit Over Fake Rockwell (UPDATED)

Courthouse News Service has the details.  The sale took place in 1994.

UPDATE:  Nicholas O'Donnell comments:  "The most obvious challenge to this case is the passage of time.  ...  If the painting is not a Rockwell, then a threshold question will be when the plaintiffs could have determined that, and whether it was within the statute of limitations.  The 2013 appraisal quoted by the Complaint could cut both ways; if the Rockwell signature was as obviously a forgery as that appraisal believes, then the question will be why the plaintiff did not discover it sooner."

"Bruguera's detention sparked outrage in the international art community."

artnet news:  "The three successive arrests of Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera, who was most recently released on Friday, have marred efforts by US President Obama and Cuban President Castro to normalize US–Cuba diplomatic relations."