Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"In the hierarchy of the art world, it became clear that the artist was no longer at the top."

"Someone or something else is, and I think we’re afraid to know what that is."

The Observer's Dan Duray talks to Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento about the legal system as a form of artistic expression.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Boo Hoo Barnes" (UPDATED)

The Art Market Monitor on some criticism of the Barnes it's hard to take seriously:  "Esplund complains that the new building contains a large open space that only seems to fulfill the function of providing an area for entertaining the wealthy while elegizing an exceedingly wealthy man’s determination to control his possessions in perpetuity. Go figure."

UPDATE:  Philadelphia Inquirer art critic Edward Sozanski reminds us that Barnes did not want "his collection to be shared with the general public."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"[T]he argument that we should uphold Barnes’s wishes in perpetuity, simply because he had the legal rights to these objects at the time of his death, is stupid."

Still catching up on all the reactions to the new Barnes building.  Somehow I missed this one, from Whitney Kimball at Art Fag City, including this response to those who believe the move will discourage future donations:

"[C]ollectors should know that circumstances will fast outstrip any plans for the future. Decisions will inevitably be made, and each generation will have to ensure that the work is handled responsibly for a little while. Nobody should expect to make personal, preferential demands of a future world; if they succeed, that only makes us a bunch of suckers."

Jerry Saltz shows up in the comments and agrees:

"Art-police and purists who argue for the strictures of owners are often not arguing for ART. Let my people go!  (My 'people' being art, not my fellow Jews.)"

And, also in the comments, AFC's Will Brand says:

"All we're saying is that the guy probably wasn't so awesome that we need to listen to him 60 years after his death."

As I said the other day, the overwhelming consensus is that the new building is a great success.  There are still some inflexible diehards who somehow see:

the exact same art,

hung in the exact same way,

but with better lighting,


a total disaster, a worst-case example of philistinism.

But, as one of the philistines, architecture critic Paul Goldberger, said, nothing would please the fundamentalists except a return to the way things were.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"[I]n 2004, I termed the proposed relocation 'an aesthetic crime,' because I couldn't imagine that the integrity of the collection ... would survive."

"But it does, magnificently."

Peter Schjeldahl, once a fierce critic of the Barnes move, visits the new museum, and is blown away.  "Better visibility is the chief, and almost the only, alteration to the strange and wonderful arrangements of works ... left by Barnes."

He joins the critical consensus.  As Lee Rosenbaum notes, the general reaction has been "manic acclamation."  Of course there are the fundamentalists, the "inflexible diehards, incapable of transcending stubborn prejudices," who say "nearly everything is wrong," that the new museum is "a worst-case example of philistinism" (not just an example of philistinism but the worst-case example).

But here's the thing.  You don't have to like the new building.  Everyone's entitled to their opinion.  But Peter Schjeldahl is not a philistine.  Roberta Smith is not a philistine.  Paul Goldberger is not a philistine.  They're just not.  So you can continue your tantrum over the move.  Or you can open yourself up to the "rapture" Schjeldahl describes.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Prince-Cariou Oral Argument

Oral argument on the Prince-Cariou appeal took place this morning in the Second Circuit.  Art in America's Brian Boucher has a report here (in which I'm quoted).  Brian is right that, overall, "the lawyers for Prince seemed to have the judges' collective ear," but it's hard to predict how it's going to shake out.  There didn't seem to be any clear consensus among the three judges on how to approach the case.

Judge Parker seemed most sympathetic to the Prince point of view.  He's the one who compared the injunction ordering destruction of the work to "something that would appeal to the Huns or the Taliban."  (One point upon which everyone agreed was that that portion of the injunction had to go.)  He also seemed unconvinced there was any market harm; Boucher quotes him as saying (to Cariou's lawyer) "bringing up the market is a clear loser for you.  You sold to a totally different audience, you've admitted that not many of the books were sold, you sold them out of a warehouse in Dumbo, and that the book was out of print. Prince was selling to a wealthier crowd, and on this side of the river."  And he didn't seem at all moved by the argument that Prince "stole" Cariou's work:  "That's the whole nature of art," he said.

Judge Wallace, sitting by designation from the Ninth Circuit, was most concerned with the question whether the fair use analysis must be applied on a work-by-work basis or, instead, could be done at the level of the series as a whole.  He kept coming back to this issue, but never really got it resolved:  both sides seemed to take the position that, if the Court was inclined to rule in their favor, then it was okay to consider the series as a whole; but if the ruling goes the other way, then the case needed to be remanded for a work-by-work consideration.

And Judge Hall, in the middle, was mostly quiet, so it's hard to know which way he's leaning.

So, the bottom line is:  who knows?  For now, some thoughts from Artinfo's Shane Ferro.  And The Art Market Monitor is "reminded that the case isn’t about the art but about the damage Prince caused Cariou’s market."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"A Museum, Reborn, Remains True to Its Old Self, Only Better"

Another one I couldn't resist linking to.  Roberta Smith on the new Barnes:

"[Barnes's] quirky institution is suddenly on the verge of becoming the prominent and influential national treasure that it has long deserved to be. It is also positioned to make an important contribution to the way we look at and think about art."

But ... but ... but .. THEFT!!! TRAGEDY!! BETRAYAL!

A sad day, of course, for the art police, the hand wringers, the hall monitors.  Why does anyway pay any attention to anything they have to say in the first place?

BREAKING: Resale Royalty Class Action Dismissed

Still mostly swamped, but I can report that the final (non-tentative) ruling dismissing the California resale royalty class action has come down.  I'll link to the decision when it's available.  Same straightforward application of commerce clause jurisprudence as in the tentative decision, no severability (i.e., the whole statute was thrown out, not just the interstate parts).  More later.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Art police & purists prepare to wad your panties into a black hole."

Been really swamped with the day job, but had to link to this Jerry Saltz tweet, teeing up this piece.

More soon!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"A two-year investigation into the reported theft of millions of dollars of artwork from a Pebble Beach home has closed without suspects or answers."

"Though numerous interviews were conducted, nothing substantial was developed which would lead me to a specific suspect(s)."

For background, start here.

Barnes Fee Appeal

The Main Line Times reports that the Pennsylvania Attorney General has filed an appeal seeking to recover its legal fees defending the latest challenge from the Friends of the Barnes.   The Orphans' Court awarded fees and costs to the Barnes, but not to the AG.  The Barnes opens in its "absolutely wonderful" new location next week.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sunday, May 06, 2012

How the Barnes Came to Move 5 Miles Up The Road

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Stephan Salisbury provides a counterweight to the Art of the Steal narrative of the Barnes move:  "This view, which posits a decades-long anti-Barnes conspiracy ..., simplifies something far more human, contradictory, and bizarre than mere conspiracy."

"They didn’t look quite right, and we said, ‘The provenance is wacky and the story behind the provenance makes no sense.'"

The latest from the NYT's Patricia Cohen on the Knoedler saga, this time with a focus on Diebenkorn.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Paul Goldberger on the New Barnes Building

"This building won’t please the absolutists, the people we should probably call Barnes fundamentalists, because nothing would please them short of a return to the way things were. But it really ought to please everybody else, because—to cut to the chase—the new Barnes is absolutely wonderful."

It will be fun to watch the Fundamentalists identify themselves.

Back to Goldberger:

"[W]alking through the galleries, I realized that there is another way altogether to see this situation, which is from the standpoint of the collection itself. There is no question that the paintings are more visible in their new home; they look better in every way, and they are likely to be far better cared for in a modern, humidity- and temperature-controlled environment. You may or may not believe that visitors fare better in the new Barnes. But you cannot dispute the fact that the Cezannes and Renoirs and Matisses do. And no one can fail to understand, going through these new galleries, that this is anything but a distinctive, idiosyncratic, and highly personal collection. That is what Albert Barnes wanted it always to be, and what it still is: a place where you not only see incomparably great art but feel the instincts and the personality of a single collector. Barnes’s will may have been changed, but his presence surely remains."