Saturday, March 31, 2012

Remember when I asked how long it would be before a gallery signed him up? (UPDATED)

Serial forger Mark Landis gets a museum show.  Background here.

UPDATE:  Derek Fincham:  "[T]he attention paid to him now will hopefully prevent future museums from accepting more forgeries."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Aknoether Knoedler Suit

Patricia Cohen has the story in the NYT.  Background (also by Cohen) here.

Brooke Astor Estate Settlement

The Met gets $20 million.  Details here.

"He stole from a vulnerable man in his care."

Ten years for James Biear.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tell me again

With the sales announced this week of works by Cindy Sherman and Edward Hopper, this bears repeating.

In 2009, Ford Bell, the President of the AAM, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times, defending "those in the art world who object to the sale of parts of a museum’s collection to pay operating expenses."  "The essential point of museum collections," he explained, is that "once an object falls under the aegis of a museum, it is held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations."

You see?  Once "an object" becomes part of a museum collection, "it" -- that object -- is "held in the public trust" for "future generations."

Now, if you really believe that, then these sales -- the Sherman and the Hopper -- cannot be okay.  They just can't.  Those works were being held in the public trust for future generations.

But if it's okay to sell these works, then don't talk to me about the public trust and future generations when some financially desperate museum sells a work or two to keep from having to close it doors.  How can I put this delicately?  I.  Don't.  Want. To.  Hear.  It.


The defenders of the standard view on deaccessioning (sales to buy more art, perfectly fine; sales for any other reason, repulsive) need to come up with a better rationale.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tell me again about the public trust (a continuing series)

The Akron Art Museum is selling a Cindy Sherman at Christie's in May.  The museum’s director says "he wanted to capitalize on the jump in prices for Sherman’s work."

Remember:  once an object falls under the aegis of a museum, it is held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations.

Also, as a result of this sale, potential donors will say, Why should I give this to you? What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?

On the other hand, as the museum director says:  "What’s the greater community benefit, keeping the [photograph] and showing it once every five years, or having a few more million dollars generating money in perpetuity ....?"

Good question!  Perhaps that ought to be the question whenever a museum considers a deaccessioning.  What's the greater community benefit?  Works for me.  Somehow I don't think the AAMD and their minions in the Deaccession Police will agree, however.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"The theft of the paintings in 2007 was a troubling example of a violent art theft."

Derek Fincham finds "one more connection between the drug trade and art theft."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Book on Brandeis and The Rose

I was on a panel on deaccessioning last fall at Hofstra Law School with Francine Koslow Miller, who has a new book out called Cashing in on Culture: Betraying the Trust at the Rose Art Museum(As you can guess from the title, we were on different sides of the issue.)  She's doing a book signing and reading at CUE in Chelsea April 19.

"Magritte repeatedly painted variants of his subjects, mostly to satisfy demand in the art market."

At the Freakonomics blog, Daniel Hamermesh notices that the basic laws of supply and demand apply to the art market.

"Kevin Costner in legal dispute with artist over sculptures"

"A lower court ruled in favor of Costner last year. The South Dakota Supreme Court is deciding whether to uphold that ruling."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Josh Baer reports on two new art-related lawsuits:  "Berry-Hill Galleries and James & David Hill have been sued by arty investor Seymour Alpert of Boca Raton over a Hassam painting they bought jointly in 2001" and "in a sadder case the shuttered Nicholas Robinson Gallery has been sued for $370,000 by artist Sea Hyun Lee."

Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Court finds that the CRRA directly regulates commerce occurring wholly outside the boundaries of California and thus violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution."

That's the money quote from the District Court's "tentative ruling" dismissing the California resale royalty suit, which I've now had an opportunity to read.  "The CRRA applies to applicable sales of fine art where either the sale takes place in California or the seller resides in California.  Thus, by its own terms, the statute directly regulates sales of fine art occurring wholly outside of California."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"When the new building opens, Mr. Williams said, 'every painting will be within an eighth of an inch of its original location.'" (UPDATED)

The best part of the Barnes move will be listening to the Usual Suspects tell us how that eighth of an inch -- or the improved lighting, or the missing heating vents -- makes all the difference in the world.  The old Barnes was perfect, you know.

UPDATE:  The Art Market Monitor:  Here's Something Else for Barnes Defenders to Freak Out About: "Why they’re not outraged that the art is imprisoned in Barnes’s matrix is another matter entirely."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Breaking News on the California Resale Royalty Suit (UPDATED)

Yesterday was the oral argument on the auction houses' motion to dismiss the California resale royaly class action. I don't see any reports online, but a source close to the case tells me that the Court issued a tentative decision dismissing the case on Commerce Clause grounds. (I'm not surprised.) The final decision should follow in the coming weeks.

UPDATE:  Nicholas O'Donnell:  "Essentially, the issue raised by the defendants is whether California can pass a law concerning art re-sales that could affect commerce outside of the state.  If it does, it could run afoul of what lawyers call the Dormant Commerce Clause to the U.S. Constitution.  There is, in fact, no Dormant Commerce Clause.  Rather, the affirmative grant of authority by the Commerce Clause to the U.S. Congress to regulate interstate commerce is taken, by negative implication, to preclude regulation of interstate commerce by the states."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Barnes Sanctions Ruling

Speaking of the Barnes's tragic five-mile journey, Cheryl Allison of the Main Line Times reports that Judge Ott has "upheld his earlier decision and ordered the Friends of the Barnes Foundation and others, as well as a separate petitioner, to pay a portion of the Barnes Foundation’s legal fees and other costs in fighting the challenge."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The tragedy of the Barnes continues

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Stephan Salisbury:  "Art poised for eager crowds."

In March 2009, "membership totaled 390; today, there are about 15,000 members."  In Merion, annual attendance "never came close to 100,000"; "Barnes officials now expect a shade more than 200,000 visitors in 2012." In 2013, they expect that "admissions should be roughly 350,000."

Isn't it awful?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

"It seems that almost the entire art world was caught out."

"He said he may have easily put '1,000 or 2,000' forgeries on the market."


"Our aim is simple:  to help people identify and return stolen / looted / missing antiquities and archaeological material."

"The importance of copyright, and hence the negative consequences of piracy for the creation of new works, are ... often exaggerated."

Richard Posner:

"The standard analysis of the optimal scope of copyright protection holds that it requires a balancing between access (to copyright works) and the incentive to create the works in the first place. But the analysis is incomplete. Access, in a broad sense that allows for copying and not just reading, promotes creativity, because most creative works build on previous works."

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

"This rhetoric about 'saving' art has to stop."

The Guardian's Jonathan Jones:  "Art does not heal the sick, or feed the poor. It is useless. It is gratifying. It should never be spoken of in the miserable language of need, or seen as a vulnerable object of charitable concern. That is to confuse things and people. Save people. Enjoy art."

The Remorseful Kleptomaniac

Via the Art Market Monitor.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Art on the Edge of Law

An interesting-sounding exhibition at SOMArts in San Francisco, "touch[ing] on issues of equity—who gets to break the law, when, and why."

Defamation Suit

Josh Baer:  "Dealer Marla Kennedy has sued Richard Silver, the New York Observer, their writer Elise Knutsen and attorney Vindoo Varghese for 'defamation and fraud. Defendant Silver was convicted of preparing fraudulent documents of works by artist Damien Hirst and signing the plaintiff’s name to false art appraisals…the New York Observer published an article which falsely stated that the plaintiff had told defendant Silver that the set of prints was authentic….'"