Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The school has already collected on an insurance claim for the work, "in the area" of $2.8 million.
Derek Fincham cuts to the chase: "Perhaps a little more care is required of multi-million dollar masterworks."
This week's Village Voice has more on the Martín Ramirez lawsuits:
"The Ramirez family argues that because the artist had been institutionalized, he didn't have the capacity to administer his affairs, including giving away his work. And [Dr. Tarmo Pasto, the psychology professor who worked with Ramirez while he was institutionalized], they claim, had no right to act as he did. 'The position of the estate is that that person had no authority whatsoever to take any of those works for any purpose,' [the family's lawyer] says, 'and . . . the institution had no such authority either.'
"Hammond's lawyers recently moved to dismiss the New York case, arguing that it's properly a California dispute. And that's where things stand at the moment. Meanwhile, the 17 Ramirez paintings sit in a vault at Sotheby's, awaiting a final resolution."
(The article refers to the works throughout, I think mistakenly, as paintings. This earlier LA Times story says they are drawings.)
Monday, August 25, 2008
The article doesn't mention it, but Woods was involved in one of the more high profile copyright infringement lawsuits of recent years:
"Consider the case of Lebbeus Woods vs. Universal Studios, in which Woods ... alleged that the 1995 movie '12 Monkeys' had copied his drawing of a wall-mounted chair with a sphere suspended in front of it. A judge found the drawing’s resemblance to one of the movie’s props 'striking' and, though the movie had been in release for 29 days, issued a preliminary injunction barring further distribution. (The studio hastily settled with Woods for an undisclosed sum.)"
Friday, August 22, 2008
"It is with bitter irony that Fisk notes that the proposal by Crystal Bridges, which the Chancellor found in September 2007 to be clearly superior to the pending settlement agreement ..., was, in February 2008, roundly condemned by the Chancellor ...."
Yeah, I never got that either.
Lee Rosenbaum cheers him on.
Responding to this post of mine yesterday, Richard Lacayo agrees that "some sales are justifiable" -- but thinks this is not one of them. He adds: "For the record, I even proposed last year that, as a way to avoid the calamitous relocation of the Barnes collection to a new home in Philadelphia, the Barnes would be better off to take the otherwise unjustifiable step of selling off a major canvas, one that would bring in enough money to replenish its endowment." (For the record, I made a similar proposal in 2006.)
Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento is not impressed with Felix Salmon's argument in favor of a sale: "The problem with this perverse argument is that it rests not only on class-centrist notions of culture, access, and appreciation, but more so on an artwork's monetary value (not to mention a complete disavowal of a donor's intent)."
Sergio also announces the imminent launch of a new blog. Can't wait!
Dan Kois says "there's everything you need for a movie: guns, danger, sexy naked paintings, and institutional dismissal — the FBI apparently ignored Wittman's requests for more agents for years."
You can see images of the work at the link.
There doesn't seem to by any legal issue: the building owner apparently required participating artists to sign a contract which provides that "The work may be withdrawn from the exhibition by [the building owner] at its discretion at any time."
Thursday, August 21, 2008
"[T]he problem with selling the Pollock ... is that it would represent a further worsening of the (so far limited) trend by colleges to look at their campus art collections as assets that can be stripped and sold off to pay for other needs. If that practice ever becomes legitimized, no campus collection is safe. That is the main thing at issue in the fight to prevent the Pollock from being sold. ... And it trumps any and all other benefits that a sale might bring."
My question is: how do we know that? How do we know that it trumps all the other benefits a sale might bring without a close examination of what those benefits are? Imagine a case where a college has suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in flood damage that isn't covered by insurance (nor is there any FEMA aid available) and, if it doesn't figure out a way to come up with a hundred million dollars or two, it's going to have to cut lots of academic and sports programs, fire a bunch of employees, eliminate several scholarship programs for needy students, etc. And imagine too that there happens to be an art museum directly across the street that is willing to pay $200 million for the work, and to promise never to charge admission to members of the college community, and, for good measure, to agree that the work can be hung back in its original location for three months out of every year. Now, of course, in many ways this is a completely unrealistic example, but do we really want to say that, in those circumstances, it would still be wrong for the college to go ahead with the sale, because to do so would increase, in some vague, unquantifiable way, the odds that some other school with some other valuable painting would look to sell it?
The bottom line for me is that there is no way of avoiding the hard work of examining the specific circumstances of each individual proposed sale. How many people get to see the work now? Is the school able to properly maintain the work? What needs is the sale intended to address? What are the alternatives to a sale? Are there other sources of funds available? What would the consequences be of not selling? And on and on. It may well be that, after thinking about these questions, the great majority of proposed deaccessionings will seem to be a bad idea. But I don't think the questions can just be ignored.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
"The prospect of drilling in the lake requires more than the usual attention to the sensitivities of the site"
If you're interested in this issue, a young man named Serge Paul runs a terrific blog called Spiral Jetty vs. Oilzilla. Kirk Johnson also wrote about the issue in the New York Times a few months ago.
(In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that Smithson's widow, Nancy Holt, is a client.)
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
The Boston Globe reports that the judge has thrown out the "transportation of stolen property" charge against lawyer Robert Mardirosian. He still faces a charge of possessing or concealing stolen property. The case was scheduled to go to the jury today.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
1. U of I Regent Michael Gartner responds to Tyler Green's conflict of interest concerns: "Gartner called Green's blog post 'bizarre' and said he and his wife aren't conspiring to bring the Pollock painting to Des Moines. ... 'My wife, like probably 2.9 million other Iowans, didn't even know the university owned a $150 million painting (if that's what it's worth) until it was in the news in recent weeks.'"
2. The Director of the Des Moines Art Center says "the museum could not afford to buy 'Mural' even if it were for sale."
The paper also editorializes against the sale: "'Mural' belongs to the people of Iowa - those alive today and future generations. It's one of Iowa's gems, the same way public land, artifacts, monuments and rare documents are pieces of this state's history. Sure, museums and individuals would probably buy many of the rare items owned by the public. But Iowa leaders should recognize the value of these items and places - beyond what they could bring at an auction."
UPDATE: Tyler responds to Gartner's response here.
Friday, August 15, 2008
The Art Market Monitor: "One of their proposals was a sale to another institution with rights to display the work. The art may end up being better served by this approach, or another one; civic pride might be enhanced by it too. They’ll never know until they explore the idea."
Thursday, August 14, 2008
"Art crime now funds, and is funded by, organized crime’s other enterprises, from the drug and arms trades to terrorism" (UPDATED)
UPDATE: Derek Fincham comments: "I think we can apply some pressure to one of his assertions, that is often mentioned in the press. I don't think there's any way to state with confidence that art theft is the third-largest grossing criminal activity, as I've argued before. Something like automobile theft surely cracks the top 3 in terms of mere monetary value. But I do think if we incorporate the intangible or cultural value of works, then perhaps art theft (including antiquities looting) may in fact be near the third-largest."
"Some paintings belong not to 'the people of Iowa' so much as to the people of the world, and belong in a world-class collection. Which, frankly, the University of Iowa Museum of Art isn't. Remember that the idea was never to simply sell Mural off to the highest bidder; it was to sell it to another museum. And I'm pretty sure there's more than one major US institution which could rustle up a nine-figure sum pretty much overnight if the painting were to come on the market. One of the reasons that contemporary art goes for such huge sums at auction is that nearly all the major art of the past is now in museums and therefore can't be bought for any sum. But there's a corollary to that well-known fact, which is that some of the greatest paintings of all time have washed up in relative backwaters which don't and can't do them justice. . . . [N]ot all museums are equal, and there's surely a case to be made that the greatest of the great masterworks belong in museums which are worthy of them, rather than in small university collections. Mural will, in fact, be arriving at MoMA in 2010, on temporary loan from Iowa. It will consort there with its peers, and take its rightful place in the art-historical pantheon. And then it will go back to the midwest, whence it came, out of sight and far off the beaten track."
"Maybe the critics of a sale should stop thinking in terms of 'forced deaccessioning' and start thinking in terms of a great donation by the people of Iowa to the people of America more generally. And as a gesture of thanks I'm sure it would be quite easy to help out the people of Iowa with a couple of hundred million dollars to put towards fixing their flood damage."
"A bicoastal legal battle has erupted over who owns 17 drawings by Martín Ramírez, whose artworks, created while he lived in California state mental institutions until his death in 1963, now fetch six-figure sums. Is Maureen Hammond, a widowed, retired schoolteacher living in Needles, Calif., a multimillion-dollar art thief who tried to dispose of ill-gotten gains through a Sotheby's auction? Or was Hammond, 69, the appreciative and legitimate recipient of a gift of Ramírez's drawings from a psychologist who befriended the artist and was the first person to arrange for their display during the 1950s?"
More here from the New York Sun, which adds that Sotheby's is holding onto the drawings until the litigation is resolved.
Here is Roberta Smith's review of Ramírez's 2007 exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum ("simply one of the greatest artists of the 20th century"). Here is Peter Schjeldahl on the same show.
For background, start here and here.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tyler Green has been referring to it as a potential "forced deaccessioning," but I'm not sure how that's any different from a regular old unforced deaccessioning. He also gets a statement from the governor's office -- and buries the lede! It seems the governor supports a sale to the Des Moines Art Center ("Governor Culver believes the University of Iowa's Jackson Pollock 1943 Mural is a treasure that belongs to the people of Iowa, for the people of Iowa, and should be preserved for future generations of Iowans"). Just kidding, though I think it's fair to say it's not the most unequivocal statement anyone ever issued (they should "seek insurance payments and federal [flooding] recovery dollars to which they are entitled first before it's even necessary to consider selling off irreplaceable assets" -- presumably after that, then it's okay).
He says that, if he is elected, he'll move to (re)reopen the case.
UPDATE: More today from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Corbett's defense: "The foundation's move has been thoroughly vetted and judicially determined to be the best available alternative. It will actually enable the foundation to increase its exposure to the common people Dr. Barnes intended to reach while retaining its existing facilities to display additional artifacts that have been in storage due to a lack of gallery space."
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Among other things, Tyler is concerned about conflicts of interest in that the wife of the regent "who first called for the university to explore a forced deaccessioning" is on the board of the Des Moines Art Center: "Gartner's position with the university's board of regents and his wife's at DMAC raises serious questions about whether Gartner is trying to leverage a forced deaccessioning of the UIMA Pollock to a museum in which his wife is active."
Look, I know I seem to lack the deaccessioning-outrage gene, but my first reaction to hearing about a possible deal with the DMAC is, "What's so bad about that?" If $100 million or so could go to the University to help it deal with its flood-related problems, with the Pollock moving a mere 115 miles down the road (plus a promise to "allow UIMA to show the painting occasionally"), how exactly does that amount to a catastrophe? Even if you buy the argument that "this collection belongs to the people of Iowa," a deal between two Iowa institutions wouldn't seem to be a problem. Or does this collection really belong to the people of Iowa City? Hard to keep track sometimes.
"He advocates a new type of economy that allows both market competition and people to freely share their art"
Jim Wynne of the FBI art crimes unit is quoted as saying, "Whether he was a thief or a good-faith purchaser, we couldn't come to a conclusion on that. All we know is he ended up with this stuff." It certainly matters to potential buyers: if Kingsland was a thief, he (and his estate) can't transfer good title to the works; if he was a good-faith buyer in the ordinary course of business, on the other hand, it's possible that, under certain circumstances, he could.
UPDATE: Much more from the New York Times today. "If nobody comes forward who can make an ironclad claim to any of these works, said the [Manhattan public administrator, who oversees intestate estates], they will indeed be auctioned off and the proceeds turned over to Mr. Kingsland’s estate. And as it happens, four first cousins of Mr. Kingsland’s and an uncle have contacted her office to declare themselves his rightful heirs."
The Cranky Professor doesn't know if "they'll ever work it out - [Kingsland] didn't leave much paper trail. On a guess, he seems to have been willing to buy things that weren't well-documented."
"It's not a can of peas. We get into these very strange situations when we start thinking about our museum in an asset- or economic-oriented way"
They value the work for insurance purposes at $100 million.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
I thought this bit was interesting:
"Gartner said the regents should determine the value of the painting if sold to a museum - not a private collector - that would agree to occasional viewings at the U of I. Gartner also wants to know how much the U of I spends to insure the painting and how much is spent on security around the work."
So, from the very beginning, the proponents of a sale (or I guess we should say, for now, proponents of the possibility of a sale) are being very careful to talk about a very narrow transaction -- one that keeps the work in the public domain, and maintains at least some access to it for the university community.
The article closes by noting that "for all the debate, the painting won't even be back in Iowa for some time. It's slated for a spring 2010 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City."
Friday, August 08, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Lee Rosenbaum says "appraising the painting can only mean that the university is thinking of monetizing it, whatever is now being said for public consumption."
Michael Judge wrote about the piece, and its rescue from the flood, in the Wall Street Journal last month.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Taylor has a good succinct summary of the current state of play:
"Since 1969, artists, composers, and writers have only been able to deduct the value of the materials in a work or, in the case of writers and composers, a manuscript or set of papers, that they donate to a museum, university, or library. Collectors and heirs, by contrast, can deduct the fair market value of their donations. The bill's advocates argue that this acts as a disincentive to artists considering donating works and puts museums at a disadvantage in the skyrocketing Contemporary art market."
As I mentioned here, I find the idea a little strange. In some ways, it undercuts the logic of the proposed legislation: if the point of the legislation is that it will increase donations by artists to museums, what do you need the pledge for? Wouldn't the same result happen naturally upon passage of the bill? It's a little like proposing a law making gains from sales of a home tax-free, and then obtaining a pledge from 50 home-owners that, if the law passes, they'll sell their houses. If the law does what you claim it will do, the pledge is really redundant.
In any case, a spokesman for Senator Leahy, who introduced the legislation, said "it was not likely that the bill would be passed in the current term, which comes to a close at the end of 2008."
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
"Doug Chrismas, a veteran Manhattan and Los Angeles art gallery owner, found himself in the middle of a $1 billion international fraud case last week after federal agents seized a $1.3 million Lichtenstein painting he sold last year - claiming title to the work of art was 'free and clear.' It turns out the 41-year-old painting ... had been smuggled into the country by a Brazilian money launderer, Edemar Cid Ferreira, the former owner of Banco Santos."
The buyer has sued Chrismas and his Ace Gallery "for selling him the pricey work of modern art - and claiming it was free and clear of any claims."
Monday, August 04, 2008
Among his ideas is a ranking of 20th century artworks by the number of times they're reproduced in art history textbooks (mentioned once before here). Picasso's “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" comes in at no. 1. Vladimir Tatlin’s “Monument to the Third International” is no. 2. Philosopher Arthur Danto is quoted as saying "I don’t see the method as anything except circular."
Felix Salmon says Galenson gives too much weight to "one-hit wonders": "If you want to represent a Johns flag or a Warhol Marilyn, you have a few to choose from, so no one painting is likely to make the Galenson list. On the other hand, if you want to represent Tatlin, you're basically forced to go with that model: there's nothing else."
More here from lawprof Larry Ribstein.