Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Hall Monitors' new Very Important Cause ...

... is to insist that we never ever call what happened to the Corcoran a "merger."  In other words, these news reports --




The Art Newspaper:  Corcoran merger gets DC court approval -- 

all get it wrong, but what do they know?

Why this issue is so important to the Hall Monitors I couldn't tell you (they move in mysterious ways), but, rather than get hung up on semantics, it's good to be reminded one more time what actually is happening. From the decision approving the merger takeover partnership arrangement:

"[U]nder the proposal, GW will: 1) renovate the Flagg Building so that it can continue to host both a gallery and a college of art and design in the District of Columbia; 2) establish a Corcoran School within GW that will seek to 'preserve and maintain the mission, reputation and brand' of the Corcoran, that will incorporate the Corcoran name, and that will remain in the Flagg Building in perpetuity; 3) continue to maintain gallery space in the Flagg Building even if the agreement between NGA and GW is terminated; and 4) continue to ensure that the works of art displayed in the Flagg Building remain open to the public. ... Under the proposal, the NGA will: 1) operate a Legacy Gallery at the Flagg Building, consisting of works from the Corcoran collection that are 'intrinsically identified' with the Flagg Building and the history of the Gallery; and 2) operate a contemporary art gallery at the Flagg Building, consisting of works of art from both the Corcoran collection and the NGA’s collection.... In sum, under the GW/NGA proposal, the Flagg Building will be renovated, the school will continue and be strengthened by its partnership with a financially sound university, both the school and a significant portion of the collection will remain in the Flagg Building, and a gallery, although smaller, will remain open to the public in the Flagg Building."

Call it what you will, but that's what it is.

Is GPS technology the answer for stolen art?

The Atlantic takes a look.  Apparently, only 1.5% of stolen art is ever recovered.

"Study Finds Increase in Charitable Donations by Puerto Rican Taxpayers after Charitable Contribution Deduction Limitations Were Removed"

Shocker.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Monkey (c)

In a blow to monkey photographers everywhere, the US Copyright Office has declared that photos taken by monkeys cannot in fact be copyrighted.

All joking aside, however, the more I've thought about this issue, the less obvious the conclusion has seemed. The problem with the actual case under discussion is that the photographer admitted it was an accident; the monkey just picked up his equipment and started snapping the shutter.  But imagine a photographer whose work is to leave a camera in a room with various animals and waits for them to press the shutter, or perhaps sets up tripwires in the room that causes the camera to shoot.  It's not so obvious to me that the photographer shouldn't own the copyright in the resulting photos in that situation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"This is a significant ruling that will have an effect on museum management beyond cy prés petitions, which are relatively rare."

"The court’s treatment of deaccession as a non-starter is a judicial adoption of a principle that is codified only in the regulations of the New York Board of Regents.  That is notable in and of itself."

 Nicholas O'Donnell on the Corcoran decision.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tell me again about the public trust (selections from The Art Institute of Chicago’s renowned photo collection edition)

Speaking of the inviolable principle that museums hold their works for future generations and they therefore must never be sold, even should the heavens fall, Phillips is about to sell 117 works from the Art Institute of Chicago's photo collection.

One.  Hundred.  Seventeen.

How can that be?

Weren't those 117 objects that, having fallen under the aegis of a museum, were held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations?

Isn't this 117 opportunities -- 117!! -- for potential donors to say "Why should I give this to you? What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?"

How can this be okay -- not even worthy of a mention in the press aside from the auction house's own press release -- but it's not okay for the Corcoran to sell work in order to keep from disappearing?

It can't be a matter of the public trust -- or else both sales would be wrong.  And it can't be a concern about future donors -- or else, again, both sales would be wrong.

So what is it (setting aside as possible answers "common sense" and "the coin of the realm")?  It has to be a value judgment that adding a few more works to the Art Institute's already enormous collection is more important than keeping the Corcoran (or the National Academy, or Fisk University, etc.) in existence.

But what sense does that make?

Did the Deaccession Police Kill the Corcoran?

In his decision today, the Judge noted that, "throughout this proceeding, [opponents of the plan] have argued that the Corcoran can address this [financial] shortfall by selling some of the more than 17,000 pieces in the Corcoran's collection."  But he said he was "less optimistic ... about the likelihood of success" of this proposal.

Why?  Because SANCTIONS.  "This proposal," he wrote, "has a serious downside.  It is undisputed that the AAM and the AAMD can impose, and have imposed, sanctions on museums that have sold art to pay for operating expenses."  He quotes the Director of the National Academy Museum as describing the effect of these policies as:  "sanctions, and you're dead."  "Thus," he wrote, "this Court believes there are substantial risks associated with the Intervenors' proposal to de-accession art to pay for the renovation of the Flagg Building and to pay some of the Corcoran's other operating expenses."

I hope they're happy at Deaccession Police headquarters.

BREAKING: Corcoran Cy Pres Relief Granted

Story here.  More later, after I've had a chance to review the opinion.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"In a complaint filed in federal court in Illinois ..."

". . . the three artists seek damages for the 'blatant misappropriation' of a piece they painted collaboratively in Buenos Aires in 2010."

Street artists sue filmmaker Terry Gilliam.

"Our job is to advance the best interests of the foundation and its charitable mission."

"The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has appealed a decision by a Florida court to award $24.6 million to three trustees who had administered the artist’s estate."

"The suggestion that the art was ever at imminent risk of being liquidated without the city’s consent was merely a political expedient."

"The city used this narrative to build an artificial sense of urgency around adopting this particular solution to the exclusion of more thoughtful approaches."

Kristi Culpepper on what's really happening in Detroit.

"I think about what I did every day, and I find it hard to live with what I did because it still haunts me."

A plea deal in the Ai Weiwei broken vase case:

"Maximo Caminero, a 51-year-old artist from the Dominican Republic, will be on probation for 18 months and serve 100 hours of community service by teaching children how to paint. Mr. Caminero also must pay restitution of $10,000, the appraised value of the vase he dropped on the floor of the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Feb. 16 in what he said was a political act."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Under Fire (UPDATED)

Deborah Solomon had a big piece in Sunday's Times on the Delaware Museum deaccessioning.  Unlike some previous efforts in the paper, this one just assumes the sale is the Worst Thing Ever, adopts the AAMD point of view completely, and then proceeds from there.  (You guys, the new director of the museum can't name a work he likes in the collection.  LOL!!!!)

But when it comes to explaining why the sale is the Worst Thing Ever, we get just one paragraph: 

"Selling artwork to fund operations (as opposed to acquisitions) is widely viewed as self-defeating, like burning down your house to heat the kitchen. Museums are supposed to safeguard art for future generations, not cash in or out. And as the sale of the Holman Hunt proved, it doesn’t always go as hoped."

The third point is neither here nor there, and the second I've dealt with hundreds of times (museums do not safeguard (all) art for future generations; they sell work all the time and it's nothing to be so touchy about). But I want to focus here on the first one -- selling artwork to fund operations is like burning down your house to heat the kitchen -- because that's a talking point the Deaccession Police love to trot out but, like a lot of their other talking points, it doesn't stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. Selling a work of art from a museum's vast collection is not like burning down your house at all. It's more like selling, say, a fork from your kitchen drawer, or an old blanket that has been up in the attic for years, or maybe even in some cases your 52-inch flat screen television: it might really hurt, and you'd hate to part with it, but if that's what it took to keep you from losing the house, then you'd do it in a heartbeat. In none of these cases -- Randolph College, Delaware, the National Academy, etc. -- is anyone's house in danger of burning down.

But for my money, the big news came in a related interview Solomon gave with WNYC Radio in which she (a) fully endorsed the Ellis Rule and (b) came out in favor of the Randolph College deaccessioning. At around the 3-minute mark, she says:

"To me deaccessioning does make sense, though, when a museum is able to sell a painting to another museum, so that the picture stays on public view.  We had that this year when a George Bellows sold by Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia to the National Gallery of Art in London. It's the first time that an American painting entered the collection of the National Gallery in London. So that strikes me as a win-win situation."

Yes, it is.

UPDATE: In my haste this morning, I forgot to include the link to the radio piece. Fixed now.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

If a monkey takes a selfie ... (UPDATED 2X)

... who owns the copyright?

UPDATE:  AFC comments: "Yes, this is silly, but it actually seems like this could have far-reaching impact on other photographers; after all, Gregory Crewdson, for one, doesn't press the shutter for any of his photographs."

UPDATE 2:  Ann Althouse:  "Give it up, Slater, and embrace the publicity you're getting at this, your moment of greatest fame. Move on, photograph something else, and let us like you at this point — perhaps the only point — when we know you. Surrender gracefully to the Mona Lisa of Macaques and and let everyone... everyone... smile."

Sarah Jeong:  "
How is an aspiring monkey photographer supposed to make it if she can’t stop the rampant internet piracy of monkey works?"