Friday, November 30, 2007
"In September, opponents to the sale ... filed a motion to intervene in response to the college’s litigation regarding the Smith trust. They asked the court to declare that the entirety of the collection is interconnected and should be protected from sale or sharing. Because the college has withdrawn its suit on the matter, [a Randolph spokeswoman] said, that response litigation becomes a 'moot point.'"
"The saga of the 'Matter Pollocks' ... appears to have reached a quiet conclusion on Wednesday night"
She also relates the following exchange from the Q & A:
"Addressing himself to [NYU's Pepe] Karmel, [Harvard curator Theodore] Stebbins asked: 'Since most people agree that, with a very few exceptions, they don't look like Pollocks, why are we here? Why did this [story] have legs?' 'Fear,' Mr. Karmel responded, noting that experts who offer opinions about authenticity risk being sued by disgruntled owners. ... 'Those of us who are scholars don't want to get involved.'"
Cleveland Plain Dealer art critic Steven Litt has been following this story as well, and his report on the event is here.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
"Mr. Martin was commissioned to examine the paintings in 2005 by their owner, Alex Matter.... Mr. Matter has said he found the paintings ... in 2002 or 2003 in a Long Island storage container that had belonged to his father. Although Mr. Martin ... completed the analysis last fall, he has said he did not release it earlier because Mr. Matter’s lawyer told him he would face a lawsuit if he did so. It is unclear why he chose to go public now. Mr. Matter’s lawyer ... has denied threatening Mr. Martin, but he has said that he did tell Mr. Martin he was not authorized to release the report because Mr. Matter ... did not feel it was complete."
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Calatrava says he will appeal.
"Prosecutors say [Marshall] falsely told Astor she was running out of money to persuade her to sell a Childe Hassam painting, 'Up the Avenue from 34th Street,' for $10 million; he allegedly took $2 million as a sales commission. He also is accused of taking two works of art, worth about $500,000 each, from Astor's house while she still lived there."
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Art News Blog offers an explanation.
UPDATE: Ed Winkleman "can't imagine a museum taking such a risk" in "the highly more litigious U.S."
UPDATE 2: Insurance lawyer George Wallace: "Brings a [w]hole new meaning to the phrase 'Fall Art Season,' eh?"
"The idea that the work is now a copy has more than casual significance. Although this is the kind of mess the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 was devised to address, that legislation—which allowed Chapman Kelley to score a recent court victory over the Chicago Park District for destroying his Grant Park wildflower garden—won’t help Agam. Communication X9 went up in ’83, and the law isn’t retroactive. Before VARA, artists had to rely on protections like copyright, and attorney Scott Hodes, who’s representing Agam, says that area of the law would be applicable here. Hodes says Agam retains the copyright and so his permission would be needed for any derivative work."
"As a businessperson, I would be very concerned at the deal Fisk has cut with the museum in Arkansas"
"Ultimately the court and Fisk have got to decide, are you going to sell this thing or not? And if not, fine. Put it aside and get on with other ways of solving the Fisk problem. If you're going to sell it, I'd rather they go out and sell it properly and take the money and put it in the bank and secure Fisk's long-term future."
I'm not surprised people are becoming frustrated with the way this is being handled.
"Prosecutors were believed to be investigating millions of dollars in cash, property and stocks that Mr. Marshall obtained over the years in his role as steward of his mother’s finances. That included the sale of one of Mrs. Astor’s favorite paintings, 'Flags, Fifth Avenue,' also known as 'Up the Avenue from Thirty-Fourth Street, May 1917,' by Childe Hassam, for $10 million. Mr. Marshall collected a $2 million fee from his mother for handling the transaction."
Earlier post here.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
"The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission decided yesterday that the Guggenheim should maintain the same light-gray paint shade it has had since 1992, when a major expansion of the museum ... was completed, rather than the original light yellow."
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
"[T]wo pieces of artwork proposed for sale were donated without restrictions. Two more weren’t donated at all - they were purchased.
"Critics of the sale say that doesn’t matter.
"Oh, yes, it does matter.
"At least, as owner, the school ought to be able to sell the paintings it bought.
"As for the two paintings donated without restrictions, sale critics say the donors would have restricted their gifts if they had guessed the paintings would ever be up for sale.
"But business decisions like this cannot rely on would have/might have/could have. Decisions cannot fairly be based on guesses - in this case not just on donor intent, but guesses about donor intent.
"Donors can rightly restrict the use of gifts, through contractual arrangements."
It goes on to point out that "
Still, despite all that, the paper thinks the Virginia Supreme Court was right to enjoin the sale. Why?
"Other lawsuits are pending against
"If the school had no right to remake itself, then its current incarnation is illegitimate - and it therefore has no authority to dispose of the school’s assets.
"It would seem that the courts must first answer the question of whether the new co-ed version of the college may even be permitted to exist. Then the question of the art sale can be settled.
"Of course, by then the question may be moot.
The decision is here. As I mentioned at the time the suit was filed, even if he gets past the standing hurdle, the plaintiff still has an uphill climb.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
UPDATE: Christa Desrets has a lengthy story in Sunday's Lynchburg News & Advance reminding us why the school is trying to sell the paintings in the first place:
"In about three weeks,
"In the France that this judge believes in, if you're willing to fork over a couple thousand dollars, you can put your mark on a highly valuable work of art and get famous doing it. Of course, Sam is herself an artist, and now you know her name."
Sergio Muñoz-Sarmiento discovers a loophole in French law.
Friday, November 16, 2007
You can see the photograph at issue here. The case has its own Wikipedia entry. Sewell Chan of the New York Times has more on today's decision here.
UPDATE: Christie's has pulled the paintings from auction. Callen Bair recaps here. Richard Lacayo notes that "for now the opponents are elated. But this cliff hanger isn't over yet." Here they are, being elated. Here too.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
"The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a University of Washington professor it says was detained by city of Snohomish police for taking photographs of power lines as part of an art project. The professor is 54-year-old Shirley Scheier, an associate professor of fine art at the UW. The ACLU describes Scheier as an artist who uses photos and public land and public structures in her artistic prints. The ACLU says the suit was filed today in Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett and seeks compensation for her wrongful detention. ... The suit says Scheier was detained by Snohomish police in October 2005 near a federal Bonneville Power Administration substation. It says police frisked and handcuffed Scheier, and placed her in the back of a police car for almost 30 minutes."
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
In an earlier statement, a spokesperson for the group fighting the sales said a lower bond amount was justified because "if the Plaintiffs lose, the College will still have possession of the paintings and can simply sell them at a later date when the art market may be in a more favorable position and when the taint of the College's actions in this matter may have left buyers' memory" -- but of course the bond is required precisely in case the opposite happens (the art market comes to be in a less favorable position).
As Lee Rosenbaum notes, the group's lawyer is playing hardball: "Injunction or no, if we prevail on the merits of the case next year ... then further litigation focusing on the return of the art will commence with those that purchase these paintings."
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
"It is disconcerting to see that a superstar architect, a global construction company and a world-class institute of higher learning, with $300 Million to spend, cannot seem to create a water-tight building. Mr. Gehry seems to think that construction defects are par for the course. In that context, it comes as no surprise that we find problems with much simpler, mass-produced homes and condominiums."
"Apparently [the artists whose work is featured in the exhibition] cut up magazines, copied comic books, drew trademarked cartoon characters like Minnie Mouse, reproduced covers from Time magazine, made ironic use of a cartoon Charles Atlas, painted over iconic photos of James Dean and Elvis Presley - and that's just in the first of seven rooms. ... Celebrated pop artists including Larry Poons, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol created these images by nicking the work of others, without permission, and transforming it to make statements and evoke emotions never countenanced by the original creators. Despite this, the programme does not say a word about copyright. ... Reading the programme, you can only assume that the curators' message about copyright is that where free expression is concerned, the rights of the creators of the original source material must take a back seat to those of the pop artists. There is, however, another message about copyright in the National Portrait Gallery: it is implicit in the 'No Photography' signs prominently displayed throughout its rooms .... These signs are not intended to protect the works from the depredations of camera flashes (otherwise they would read 'No Flash Photography'). No, the ban on pictures is meant to safeguard the copyright of the works hung on the walls - a fact that every member of staff I asked instantly confirmed. ... I wasn't even allowed to photograph the 'No Photographs' sign. A member of staff explained that the typography and layout of the signs was itself copyrighted."
Some New York museums follow this practice of not allowing any photography. Others, however, including MoMA and the Met, do allow it, with certain restrictions (for example, no flash). See here.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
UPDATE (Nov. 13): Lee Rosenbaum has the latest from Anne Yastremski of "Preserve Educational Choice," the group leading the charge to prevent the sales. Yastremski says "it is possible" the judge will hear argument on their motion to reduce or eliminate the bond this afternoon.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
And in today's New York Times, James Barron took a closer look at one of the many Salander-related claims, this one brought in federal court by two artists and two artists' estates, not against Salander or his gallery but, instead, against a gallery in Rome. They claim that, without their permission, Salander-O'Reilly purported to transfer ownership of more than 50 of their works to settle a $5 million debt to the Italian gallery.
Or, as NPR's Tom Regan puts it: "should someone who commissions a striking design like this expect to sacrifice some functionality?
Go get 'em, Lee.
UPDATE: Seems Lee mentioned this last week. But where's the passion?
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
In the other Randolph suit, this one involving the trust created under the will of former Randolph art professor Louise Jordan Smith, a hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 15 (before the same judge).
Insurance lawyer George Wallace says: "Not surprisingly, the architects blame the engineers who blame the contractors who blame the subcontractors and so on down the line. And we can safely assume that everyone is busily tendering the suit to their respective insurers."
Ann Althouse asks: "Do you want a wild and crazy building dreamed up by an artist? Stop and think whether all the less strange buildings look the way they do for a reason."
UPDATED: The New York Times will have this story in tomorrow's paper. Gehry says "the issues are fairly minor. M.I.T. is after our insurance." He also claims "'value engineering' — the process by which elements of a project are eliminated to cut costs — was largely responsible for the problems. 'There are things that were left out of the design,' he said. 'The client chose not to put certain devices on the roofs, to save money.'"
Monday, November 05, 2007
UPDATE: More from James Barron in this morning's New York Times. (Apparently the filing was Friday, not, as I indicated above, yesterday.)
UPDATE 2: The New York Sun had a page one story today headed "Salander Case May Change the Art Market," though it's short on details on how it might change things. The only specific idea that's mentioned is a title registry (similar to the ones in place for cars and real estate), but, while that makes some sense in theory, the practical problems seem to me pretty insurmountable (what to do, for example, about the many many works already out there in circulation?). Some interesting ideas were batted around over at Artworld Salon a couple weeks ago (including in the comments).
“I think what Crystal Bridges is doing is actually raising the profile of American art in this country"
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Christa Desrets had an update on the
Saturday, November 03, 2007
As I recently noted, I have my doubts about Section 1031's application to sales of art under current law, so this may be less a potential change in the law than a clarification of existing law.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
The regulations also require that, if an auction house makes loans or advances to consignors, "this fact must be conspicuously disclosed in the auctioneer's catalogue or printed material." But this disclosure needn't be made on a lot-by-lot basis; it's enough for the auction house to include a general statement in the catalogue that it offers loans and/or advances to consignors. § 2-122(h). Similarly, section 2-122(f)(1) requires the auction house to disclose the fact that a sale is subject to a reserve -- but here again, this obligation can be satisfied by a general statement to that effect in the auction catalogue. The regulations also expressly permit the auctioneer to place so-called "chandelier" (or, as Grant calls them, "phantom") bids on behalf of the consignor up to the amount of the reserve (though this practice too must be disclosed in the auction catalogue). § 2-123(b). Once the bidding reaches the reserve, however, the auctioneer is prohibited from bidding any longer for itself or the consignor.
If you're interested, you should be able to find the regulations at this link. In the lefthand column, click on "Rules of the City of New York," then "Title 6 -- Department of Consumer Affairs," then "Chapter 2 -- Licenses," and finally "Subchapter M -- Auctioneers."
UPDATE: Felix Salmon finds the story "peculiar."
"The [settlement] requires Island Treasures Art Gallery ... and artist Marylee Leialoha Colucci to pay [photographer Kim Taylor] Reece $60,000 for attorney's fees .... The stained-glass work at the center of the suit also cannot be publicly displayed, sold or offered for sale .... And Colucci cannot make other works that copy Reece photographs."
Bernstein and Clarida covered this case in the New York Law Journal earlier this year.
UPDATE: "No one wins in this case."
"Up until recently, these institutions have tended to view the stewardship of their art as a public trust, to be passed on to posterity"
"One can sympathize with Fisk, which is in dire financial straits. Ever since it was founded in 1866 as a school for freed slaves, it has teetered on the precipice of bankruptcy. Now, with all of its buildings mortgaged to the hilt, it has turned to this sale as a last resort. This is one case where a sale might do some good to gallery-goers: Fisk has never been able to exhibit its 101-piece collection, a gift from Georgia O’Keeffe, properly. The agreement to share its collection with the new Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas means that the public will at last be able to see such extraordinary works as O’Keeffe’s own Radiator Building, along with major works by Pablo Picasso, Marsden Hartley, and John Marin. Although the O’Keeffe estate is contesting the sale, claiming that it violates the terms of the gift, it cannot claim that the college has acted in bad faith.
"Matters are less clear-cut at Randolph .... While the school pleads financial hardship, it is hardly at the point of shutting its doors."
Meanwhile, in The Roanoke Times, John Long, who teaches history at Roanoke College but is also the director of the Salem Museum, argues that while "there is no legal authority to stop Randolph College from selling the four paintings or even tossing them into a bonfire," it's still wrong to view a museum's collection "as glorified yard sale inventory to be sold off to fund operations of the museum -- and still less of a parent organization like a college."