Monday, November 18, 2019

"I don't know how much clearer I can be about this: we are moving the Bull."

The Art Newspaper: Plans to move lower Manhattan’s Charging Bull sculpture raises furore.

Nicholas O'Donnell says: "If the artist owns the sculpture, he has no ability to dictate its placement on city property. He can ask for it back if he wants but that's it. If he doesn't own it (for which there [is] an anecdotal argument, having abandoned it on Wall Street), he has zero say at all."

Saturday, November 09, 2019

"A fast-moving controversy at the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles that involved workers trying to unionize, layoffs, and the announcement of a temporary closure has come to a dramatic conclusion: the private museum saying that it now has no plans to reopen." (UPDATED)

ARTnews:  After Layoffs and Unionization Campaign, Marciano Art Foundation Says: ‘We Have No Present Plans to Reopen.’

UPDATE: "In a charge filed on Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board, the organizers wrote that the foundation 'has illegally discriminated against its employees by laying off employees en masse and/or closing its facility.'"

"The case, which includes accusations of a fake auction guarantee and double-dealing, lifts the curtain on a segment of the market fueled by increasingly byzantine deals involving anonymous corporations, partial ownership, and fast flipping."

artnet news:  A Bombshell Lawsuit Claims That High-Flying Art Dealer Inigo Philbrick Sold a Rudolf Stingel Painting He Didn’t Own—More Than Once.

"In 2001, Meyer purchased the Rothko for $900,000 from New York dealer Susan Seidel, after another dealer, Jamie Frankfort, introduced them."

LA Times:  Longtime Universal boss Ron Meyer sues art dealer over ‘forged’ Mark Rothko painting.

"Christie’s says the family members have no proof the diamond belongs to them and that, regardless, its client, who bought it from the stepbrother, had every right to sell the stone."

NYT:  Christie’s Auctioned a $40 Million Diamond. Was It Stolen?

"The arrest came after authorities discovered what they said was a fake artwork attributed to an artist who was not named in the Der Tagesspiegel report."

ARTnews:  Noted Berlin Art Dealer Arrested After Allegedly Selling Fake Painting.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tell me again about the public trust (Brooklyn Museum to Sell Francis Bacon Pope at Auction with $6 M. to $8 M. Estimate Edition)

Story here.

Thankfully, thankfully, this is not one of those works that, having fall under the aegis of a museum, was held in the public trust for present and future generations.  And it's not a work whose sale will cause potential donors to ask themselves "Why should I give this to you?  What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?"

Phew.  Close call.

Monday, October 14, 2019

"A $200 million art world spat between a prominent Philadelphia philanthropist and an eccentric New York art collector grew increasingly messy Thursday, as one of the men invoked the other’s ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein in an effort to discredit his rival."

Story here.  Background on the spat here.

"George Washington High School’s alumni association sues over controversial S.F. mural"

The lawsuit "challenges a vote by the school board in August to cover the New Deal era mural that spans George Washington High School’s lobby with solid panels."  The grounds?  "The group is challenging the August vote to cover it up on the grounds that the district has not conducted an environmental review required by California law."  That's creative.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

"The Arnautoff mural discord is paradigmatic of our divisive times. For the defenders of the murals, myself included, it embodies 'cancel culture' writ large, to the point of caricature."

At the New York Review of Books, Michele Bogart says the dispute raises "important and pressing questions about race, representation, pedagogy, power, knowledge, and the meaning of public art."

I would put her somewhere between the open letter position (she says "[t]he school board's drastic stance was a travesty, given the murals' iconography and history" -- emphasis added for the implication that, given a different iconography and history, it might not be a travesty) and the Roberta Smith absolutist position that "[o]nce art has been made and released into the often choppy flow of life, it should stay there."  In support of the latter reading, she ends up urging us to see murals and monuments "as articulations of biography and urban social history":  "Public art is a dynamic political process that unfolds over time and involves specific people, groups, and circumstances. It is a nexus of interactions, negotiations, and powerplays, past and present. Today’s Arnautoff mural dramas have taken on a life of their own, but they are part and parcel of the paintings’ meaning as a material part of San Francisco’s ongoing history."

Saturday, September 14, 2019

“I wish it was a prank,” he said, adding that the story “is deadly serious if even a little bit surreal since the subject of the robbery was a toilet.” (UPDATED)

Maurizio Cattelan's gold toilet was stolen this morning out of an exhibition at Blenheim Palace.

UPDATE:  ARCA:  "All puns aside, and in this case there are many floating around, gold is presently valued at around $1,500 per troy ounce. 18 karat gold is a mixture of pure gold and other metals in the ratio 3:1.  Using that ratio, the toilet would have been made up of 75% pure gold, 15% silver and 10% copper.  Weighing in at 103 kilos of gold (3311.53 troy ounces), once melted down, the smelted gold would be worth $4,967,295 USD."

Thursday, September 12, 2019

"Attack Leaves Wall Street’s Iconic Bull With a Gash on Its Horn"

New York Times story here.

More on the 5Pointz oral argument

From Amelia Brankov here, including the following:

"Significantly, the defendants argue that VARA does not apply to the 5Pointz aerosol works because the underlying protocol at 5Pointz was that the works were generally intended to be temporary and the site curator would allow one artist's works to be painted over by another purportedly without complying with VARA's waiver/notice provisions.  While the judges reserved decision on this (and all other issues) at the hearing, responses from the bench included comments that, if temporary work was not protected, then The Gates, an iconic temporary installation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Central Park, would not be protected by VARA, and that even if the artists' rights previously were violated by the 5Pointz curator, that does not mean that the defendants were free to disregard the artists' rights under VARA."

That's interesting.  One of the odd things about the case to me has always been that it seemed to suggest:

1.  Work painted over by another artist (which apparently happened routinely) ... no VARA violation.

2.   The same work painted over not by another artist but by the owner of the property ... VARA violation.

But the appellate judges seem to maybe be suggesting a different answer, namely that they were VARA violations all along, that every time Artist A painted over Artist B's work it was a VARA violation but nobody did anything about it, the relevant norm in the community was to let the violation slide.  But, in theory, they could have sued every time their work was painted over by the next artist up.

Counterpoint:  who knows?  As I said in response to a similar report last week, it can be a mistake to read too much into oral argument.  Let's see what ends up happening.

Mercedes survives motion to dismiss in street art infringement lawsuit

It involves some photos posted on Instagram that showed the defendants' murals.  (The artists are the defendants here because Mercedes brought a declaratory judgment action against them.)  Story here, including a link to the full opinion.  Background here.

The Court went out of its way to emphasize:

"Overall, Mercedes has alleged a plausible claim that section 120(a) of the AWCPA protects Mercedes' right to photograph publically visible buildings which contained defendants' murals.  Whether they will prevail on this claim is not before the Court at this time."

So what is that plausible claim exactly?  It's that murals on the exterior of a building are "part of an architectural work as elements in the [building's] design," that they are "design element[s] of the building."  I suppose that's plausible, but it seems more natural to me to say a mural is painted onto a work of architecture.  There was a similar case about a year ago (although in a completely different posture; the question was not just about the "plausibility" of the claim) which included the following language:

"There is also no indication that the mural was designed to appear as part of the building or to serve a functional purpose that was related to the building. Instead, there is undisputed evidence that Plaintiff was afforded complete creative freedom with respect to the mural, and that the design of the mural was inspired by Plaintiff’s prior work. Plaintiff was not instructed that the mural should play a functional role with respect to the parking garage or that the design of the mural should match design elements of the garage. Indeed, the architecture of the parking garage and accompanying building were already complete before Plaintiff started painting."

I would guess the same is all true of the murals here, though I suppose discovery might prove otherwise.