Monday, October 09, 2006

Discarded Art

The New York Times had a little piece on Sunday about Josh Sapan, the CEO of Rainbow Media Holdings, the cable tv programming company, who has built a collection of hundreds of artworks that he has found "on the streets and sidewalks of Manhattan, where he has prowled for years with downcast eyes, ready to rescue abandoned gems from the hydraulic crush of the sanitation truck." He's set up a website to display "the collection" here. My first thought is to wonder about Sapan's interference with an artist's "right to destroy" her own work. In 1982 Frank Stella brought a lawsuit in New York State court against dealer Stephen Mazoh over two rain-damaged paintings he had intended to discard but which disappeared from the landing outside his studio and then reappeared at Mazoh's gallery. The case ended up settling, with Stella recovering -- and then destroying -- the works. Sapan's website doesn't appear to identify any of the artists by name, but what if one of the art students whose work he's "rescued" turns into the next Frank Stella and an enterprising art historian someday makes the connection?