Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Authenticity Suit Against Christie's

Involving a Boris Kustodiev painting. The Art Newspaper has the story here. More here from Forbes.

Tatintsian Settlement

The Art Newspaper's Charlotte Burns reports that Moscow dealer Gary Tatintsian's lawsuit against Luhring Augustine gallery has settled:

"Roland Augustine and Lawrence Luhring said the gallery had offered the dealer four new [George] Condo paintings, plus a fifth work which Tatintsian had already agreed to buy, valued at $1.04m in July 2009. The dealer refused this, and took the case to court in August 2009. However, Tatintsian has now accepted the works and dropped the case."

"UA spends millions suing man who helped build its sports legacy"

"An estimated $1.5 million to $2 million, nearly five-and-a-half years of litigation, six U.S District Court judges and two appeals to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later, and the University of Alabama appears no closer to prevailing in its trademark infringement lawsuit against artist Daniel Moore than it was in March 2005."

"Salander’s crimes were essentially about obtaining money under false pretences"

The Telegraph's Colin Gleadell summarizes the Salander saga.

"The art world is no more or less cloistered than the entertainment world, the landscape-gardening world, or the real-estate world"

Acquavella Galleries' Director Michael Findlay has a letter in this week's New Yorker, in response to David Grann's excellent article on Peter Paul Biro: "The fact that specialists in the work of a particular artist honestly disagree about an attribution no more damns the profession, or connoisseurship, as a genuine discipline than any disagreement between professionals, whether they be lawyers or doctors, scientists or art dealers."

"As in any exchange, both sides gained a surplus –Beckmann a producer surplus, the gallery a consumer surplus"

The Freakonomics Blog on pricing paintings.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Important "First Sale" Doctrine Case

Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento discusses a Peter Hirtle post discussing what could be an enormously important copyright decision that not enough people are discussing. Under the Ninth Circuit's decision in Costco v. Omega, the owner of a foreign-made artwork still under copyright cannot display it in public without the copyright owner's consent. The case is now before the Supreme Court. The American Intellectual Property Law Association's amicus brief in the case is here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

FYI: The British Museums' Association is Completely Unethical

According to this piece by Tiffany Jenkins, the rules for deaccessioning in the UK are different than they are here:

"Two years ago, the Museums’ Association, the professional body for the sector, significantly altered its policy, softening its attitude towards the protection of the collection. ... [T]he MA came out and argued for the first time that financially motivated disposal was permissible in certain circumstances - not just in order to buy another work, but also to raise cash."

Who knew that British museums were repulsive Stalinists? Why oh why won't the AAMD do something about this? Shame on the Royal Cornwall Museum, shame on the Museums' Association, shame on everyone!

"The best article in the New Yorker this year"

Laura McKenna liked David Grann's piece on Peter Paul Biro too.

And a commenter adds: "It's a terrific article. Particularly if you saw the movie Who the *$&% Is Jackson Pollock? I have to admit, I was totally taken in. Seems very convincing in the movie. It would be great to show the movie to students first and then assign this article! It really makes you think about how one-sided a 'documentary' can be."

Yeah, some of them can be.

"Argott is also, unquestionably, an advocate"

The Art of the Steal is out this week on DVD. DVD Talk reviews it here:

"There are, after all, real questions to be asked about who 'owns' art, and who has the 'right' to see it; are we supposed to cheer Barnes for amassing this tremendous collection and then proudly, spitefully keeping it away from the general public? (The collection didn't become available for viewing by non-students until 1961, and then only a couple of days a week, by appointment.) The film affords plenty of screen time for the self-proclaimed arbiters of art, but seems almost afraid to let anyone ask the simple question: shouldn't people be able to see this collection? (The closest it gets is Philly mayor turned Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who despairs that the collection is 'being hidden away from the world.') Yes, these were Barnes's wishes, but was he right? Probably. But it's not quite as black-and-white as is portrayed here."

"Physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary"

More on MoMA's acquisition of the @ symbol (mentioned earlier here).

"Untangling the Salander Mess"

Eileen Kinsella gives it a shot in ARTnews.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"When a university sues an artist . . ."

" . . . while asking the courts to trump the freedom of speech and expression with the university’s commercial trademark rights, that university has, regrettably, lost sight of its mission."

Daniel Moore writes about his lawsuit with the University of Alabama, now in its sixth year.

Portrait of Wally Settlement

I'm a little late on this one, but, after more than a decade, the Portrait of Wally case finally settled. Here is Randy Kennedy in the NYT. Here is Lee Rosenbaum and, as Lee says, Judith Dobrzynski has owned the story. Some thoughts from Ray Dowd here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rose Roundup

The Boston Globe's Geoff Edgers has a brief round-up of views on the latest at the Rose.

On this silly notion that it's somehow wrong to refer to what they propose to do as "loans," let me just point out that that's always how people have referred to these sorts of arrangements. In 1992, the New York Times reported on an agreement between the Whitney and the San Jose Museum of Art -- "for lending the art, the Whitney is to receive $3 million." In 1999, the Times reported that "in return for $50 million in payments spread over the life of a 20-year-plus pact," Boston's Museum of Fine Arts "will send two five-month loan exhibitions" per year to a museum in Japan. In 2006, the Times reported that the Louvre had "decided to lend a sampling of its collection" to the High Museum in Atlanta . . . in exchange for $6.4 million. Marie Malaro's Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections even has a whole section on these arrangements -- she calls it "lending for profit."

So Edgers needn't feel guilty about his use of the term "loans." He's in good company.

"I elected to have the court decide the disputed amount, so I could pay that amount ..."

". . . and return to the more important process of exposing and redressing, in the courts, Emigrant management's misconduct."

Asher Edelman is ordered to pay Emigrant Bank about $560,000 "to resolve a dispute over loans used to buy artwork."

On the more important process of exposing etc., see here.

"Australians investing in art for retirement face a potential shift in rules that could force them to sell their collections"

Business Week has the story.

Another Sad Deaccessioning Story

The NYT's Randy Kennedy reports that Thomas Eakins's "Gross Clinic,' tragically deaccessioned a couple years ago by Thomas Jefferson University, has benefited from an "ambitious restoration effort" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What's more, the newly restored work will go on view this week at the museum in a special exhibition entitled "An Eakins Masterpiece Restored: Seeing ‘The Gross Clinic’ Anew."

Will the horrors of deaccessioning never cease?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rivers Archive Update

Kate Taylor in the NYT this weekend: "After it came to light last week that films and videotapes made by the artist Larry Rivers included footage of his two daughters naked, New York University informed his foundation that it did not want those materials included as part of the archive it was purchasing."

Background here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"The picture is the same whether it is said to be old or new, genuine or fake, an original or a copy"

Michael Kimmelman on the "Fakes" show in London:

"The work was a forgery. Science proved it. And so there it hangs in the show, on a wall of shame, surrounded like a mug shot by the evidence of its true crime.

"But look, never mind what the label says, and you may notice something else about the picture, too, some other truth.

"It’s beautiful."

"We're not talking about T-shirts. We're talking about fine art"

The latest on the Alabama-Daniel Moore trademark suit.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Busy Week for Art Litigation

Josh Baer has the round-up:
  • The Netherlands Gallery Mourmans has sued MoMA, NS International, and Lloyds of London alleging they "wrongfully failed to honor terms of an agreement concerning the loan of seven works of art by the artist Ron Arad" in that they "failed to provide the proper security or supervision to protect the plaintiff’s works.” MoMA did an Arad show last fall.
  • Marshall Elkins has sued Art Capital Group seeking the return of a George Stubbs painting, "claiming that defendant refuses to return it to him after he previously delivered it to defendant on consignment for the purpose of selling it.”
  • And in another lawsuit against Art Capital, "former investor Sagecrest II LLC has had their action against ACG moved to federal court as they seek to recoup $6.8 million they allege they are owed." This one seems to be part of a much bigger mess.

Russian Curators Convicted

BBC news reports that "two men who organised a controversial art exhibition in Moscow in 2007 have been found guilty by a Russian court of inciting hatred." No jail time, but fines of several thousand dollars each.

The Moscow News adds that the "proceedings took a farcical turn short[ly] after the verdict was announced, when it was claimed that the defendants had smuggled thousands of cockroaches into the chambers in protest against the legal system."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Yet a museum is much more than its objects"

Mark Gold has a piece on deaccessioning in the latest issue of the Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies (portions of which appeared in a 2009 article he did for Museum magazine).

He runs through the real-life example of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Mass. (about 90,000 visitors per year), which recently deaccessioned "three Russian paintings that had no relevance to the collection and had never been exhibited in more than 50 years of ownership" (my emphasis). The museum netted $7 million from the sale -- "a very big day in the life of an institution with a $2 million operating budget." The museum has recently had to reduce staff to meet budget shortfalls, and planned capital improvements have been put on hold. "The collection on the other hand is well cared for, and there is no interest in expanding in a new direction." Despite all that, "the ethical rule prevents the museum from accessing those funds to support its present operating and capital needs and to sustain its programs." That, he says, "is the tragedy of the rule."

He concludes with a call for a "balancing of priorities": "placing the viability of the museum and its programs on at least an equal footing with the collection. Why not make it ethical for a museum to weigh priorities and make difficult choices without fear of condemnation and ostracism?"

It's a good question.

"I don’t want it out there in the world. It just makes it worse"

The NYT's Kate Taylor had an interesting story a few days ago on NYU's purchase ("for an undisclosed price") of the archives of artist Larry Rivers. The issue is that the archives include "films and videos of his two adolescent daughters, naked or topless, being interviewed by their father about their developing breasts." One of the daughters says she "was pressured to participate, beginning when she was 11," and "is demanding that the material be removed from the archive and returned to her and her sister."

NYU has "pledged to keep the material off limits during the daughters’ lifetimes," but Amanda Marcotte says "that’s not enough. Rivers abused his children, and NYU shouldn’t cooperate in the abuse, even in the name of art. They should let [the daughter] destroy the videos if she wants."

Dorothy King agrees: "She was underage, she couldn't consent to the photos, and NYU should return the photos and videos to her."

And lawprof Rob Heverly says: "My proposal, currently being developed in a piece for the 'I/S' journal and based on my presentation at this conference at Ohio State past spring, is that minors who appear in videos or photographs have a right to either assent object to — and thus allow or prevent — distribution of the video or photographic artifacts in which they appear. Today’s NY Times article convinces me that, while the idea still needs some work, I’m at least traveling down the right path. This just can’t be right."

Authenticating Peter Paul Biro

A fantastic piece in last week's New Yorker on Canadian forensic art expert Peter Paul Biro. Highly recommended.


  • Lawsuit over a Banksy mural in Detroit.
  • Here's a twist: artist (rather than collector) sues Park West gallery.
  • Second lawsuit over new NYC rules on selling art in parks.
  • Moscow museum curators on trial for blasphemy.

"We found inks that did not exist in Lennon's lifetime"

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser: "A Wisconsin man is suing a Maui art gallery that sold him nearly $200,000 worth of sketches by Beatle John Lennon—sketches the buyer now believes are counterfeits."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Young Blogger with a Bright Future

John Stuart Mill weighs in on the Barnes controversy:

"[T]here is no fear of robbing a dead man; and no reasonable man who gave his money when living, for the benefit of the community, would have desired that his mode of benefiting the community should be adhered to when a better could be found."

"The [complaint] reveals the kind of misunderstandings that can result when repositories get into the permissions business"

Peter Hirtle on photograper Anne Pearse-Hocker's lawsuit against the Smithsonian:

"I can well imagine that a user would see 'worldwide permission' and assume everything is covered. The case is a strong reminder that when making reproductions for patrons and granting permissions, repositories need to be crystal-clear about what they are doing. In many ways, I wish we could come up with a word other than 'permissions,' which is so closely connected to copyright, when it is physical ownership that is in play."

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Up with UPMIFA

The Wall Street Journal's Erica Orden reports that New York is about to pass a bill that would allow nonprofits "to spend certain endowment funds without court approval." Current law, she explains, "forbids organizations such as museums and universities from spending the principal of an endowment fund when it falls below its original value, or 'underwater' .... The bill, virtually identical versions of which have been introduced in the Assembly and Senate, would permit 'underwater' fund principal to be used without approval from the State Supreme Court or New York State Attorney General's office."

Judith Dobrzynski calls it "crazy," but, as Orden explains, this is just New York catching up with the rest of the country:

"New York's bills, originally introduced in April 2009, are a variation of model legislation known as the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, which has been adopted in 47 other states and the District of Columbia since 2007."

This AP story from 2009 describes the problems with the existing rules: they present "a frustrating quandary" for nonprofits, who "have the money they need to save jobs, offer scholarships and put on a solid schedule of programs, but face state laws that keep them from using any of it." The new law eliminates the bright line "underwater" rule and gives nonprofits more flexibility when it comes to endowment spending. Felix Salmon discussed this issue in the context of the Brandeis-Rose controversy here.

"Many nonprofit organizations in New York are deeply concerned they will lose significant contributions from wealthy donors . . ."

". . . if a pending state budget proposal becomes law."

"Artists Need to Keep Good Records"

At the Huffington Post, Daniel Grant explains why, and adds:

"The Joan Mitchell Foundation (155 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013, 212-524-0100, www.joanmitchellfoundation.org) has established a grant program enabling artists to document their work. The foundation will underwrite this process by hiring an archivist and paying for a computer (if need be) and the creation of an image and text database."


Thursday, July 01, 2010

For some reason they left out the part about the "theft"

I recently stumbled across this New York Times editorial from 2003, in support of the plan to move the Barnes. "Help is at hand," it begins, for the "secluded," "inaccessible" collection. It notes that its $10 million legacy has been spent, the trustees "reduced to fighting bankruptcy and litigation." But the editorial board welcomes the new plan, which includes (a) $150 million in pledges from leading foundations to open the collection "to far more visitors" and (b) $50 million in new campus construction for Lincoln University. They point out that the new museum will "be challenged to duplicate Dr. Barnes's delightfully eclectic 'ensembles' -- wedging an El Greco by a Milton Avery by a Rubens." "But," they conclude, the move "promises to bolster [Barnes's] core conviction that art appreciation must be extended to ordinary working-class people."

"If Christie’s wouldn’t have been found guilty of fraud, I would have literally bought a plane ticket to Argentina . . ."

". . . because at least nobody expects justice there."

Halsey Minor wins another lawsuit.

Art Patronage as Money Laundering

Jim Johnson's pragmatist take on the controversy surrounding the fact that the Tate gets lots of money from British Petroleum:

"I think we need to dispense with the moralism. What precisely is the alternative you propose? Government funding for the arts? Some sort of list of 'socially responsible' patrons? (How, in constructing such a list, do we decide which sins are the most egregious?) The art world ... is, let's face it thoroughly infused with commercial and political pressures. What is the alternative you are proposing?"