Thursday, October 25, 2007

"This is not a restoration; it's a reconstruction of my work"

The Chicago Tribune reports on the latest "standoff highlight[ing the] increasing tensions between artists and art owners over control of their works." In 1981, Yaacov Agam was commissioned by the building's owner to create a sculpture for a downtown office tower. Over time, "Chicago's harsh weather took its toll on the sculpture" and "the colors had faded and the paint had begun to peel." So, in 2000, the building owner began the process of restoring the work. Agam claims "the restoration is not faithful to his original vision" and is threatening to sue if the owner returns the work to the site (it's been down for the restoration work for more than two years). Agam's lawyer concedes the work "is likely not protected by the Visual Artists Rights Act because his work was created before 1990 and he no longer owns it," and so relies on an argument that will be much trickier to pull off, namely that "the restorer has created a new work that may be considered a derivative under federal law" (which, if true, would be a violation of Agam's exclusive rights under copyright, rather than VARA).