Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Continuing to Refine

Miraculously, taking some more time off has been found to satisfy the "refinement of my summer" test, so I can ethically do so.  It was a very close call, but we made it through.  Just as not just any sale by a museum serves to refine its collection, not every week of vacation serves to refine my summer.  We're talking very strict standards here people.

Back in about 10 days.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The VMFA repulsively produced an economic impact of $30 million for the state of Virginia

From a show on loan -- I'm sorry, did I say "loan"?  I meant "rent."  It's very important that we use that word when loan fees are paid.  Very important.  Especially when the Rose is involved -- from the the Musée National Picasso in Paris.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch has the details.

So what happened was:

Lots of people got to see a bunch of great art that they otherwise wouldn't have had a chance to see.

The local economy got a boost.

And the lending (sorry: "renting") museum, which was closed for renovations anyway, got some cash.

It's all so repulsive and icky.  And it probably violates some donor intent, if you look hard enough.  Well, maybe not donor intent, but someone's intent.  I'm sure there's someone out there whose intention is that museums not make these repulsive, icky, commercial arrangements that benefit everyone and harm no one.

So there.

"The facts of the case may provide a good in-class example for discussions of idea/expression and substantial similarity."

Lawprof Megan Carpenter on Janine Gordon's copyright infringement suit against Ryan McGinley.  In the comments, Bruce Boyden says "if the other works in suit are like the 3 featured in the article, she’s going to make Nichols v. Universal Pictures look like a close case."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Much attention has been paid to the forces at work against the foundation, but in fact the seeds of destruction were sown by the hands of Barnes himself."

James Panero has the cover story in the new issue of Philanthropy magazine on the Barnes Foundation.  He says it's "been a case study in how an institution . . . can become irrevocably damaged through overly restrictive operating guidelines, unanticipated leadership problems, and the competing missions of other organizations and institutions."

Overall, he seems to fall into the wish-they-weren't-moving camp, but it's a much more balanced picture than we're used to getting.  For example, he notes that "it is not exactly clear to what extent Pew, Annenberg, or Lenfest are obligated to defer to the wishes of Albert Barnes. Donors, whether individual or institutional, pursue a wide variety of causes. In a free society, many of those causes will be mutually exclusive. Barnes wanted his collection intact and in Merion. Pew, Annenberg, and Lenfest want to make downtown Philadelphia a center for world-class art. Both goals are perfectly legitimate—indeed, on their own, entirely admirable."  (It's much easier to just call those groups -- who "offered $150 million in private and public funding" -- THIEVES.)

Nevertheless, he says "their actions undermine the general principle of donor intent. They set a precedent that could discourage future donors from believing that their intent will be honored. All philanthropy involves an act of trust between giver and recipient. These actions erode that sense of trust, to the detriment of future philanthropy."

But as I've said before, it's built into the structure of our laws governing philanthropy that, if circumstances change significantly enough in the future, donor intent may be modified.  That was the case before Barnes established his foundation, and remains the case today.  We simply can't guarantee donors that, no matter what happens, their intentions will always be honored.  But we still get plenty of philanthropy.

In fact, in the case of Barnes, don't the incentive effects actually run in the other direction?  Do we want the message to potential donors to be, no matter how poorly you structure your gift, no matter how "overly restrictive [your] operating guidelines," no matter how ill advised your investment limitations, we will never violate your intentions?  Doesn't the moving of the Barnes in fact send exactly the right message to future donors?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"First, the Rose controversy can be summarised as fundamentally a failure of leadership."

In an op-ed in The Art Newspaper, former Rose director Michael Rush reflects on the recent settlement.

I'll note in passing that, unlike a lot of the press reports at the time, he correctly characterizes the settlement as falling "short of a binding statement that [the university] will not sell," and adds:

"Brandeis’s language in the lawsuit resolution may be intended to keep the door open for future sales. Having no 'aim, plan, sell any artwork…' could be translated as their having no 'aim, plan, design' to sell any artwork today. Why didn’t they say 'Brandeis agrees not to sell artwork?'"

That's obviously tangential to the main points in his piece, but I think it's important to have a clear record of just what the settlement provides.

More on Copying vs. Stealing

Matthew Yglesias:

"I wrote a book once, titled Heads In The Sand. I both own physical copies of the book and own the copyright to the content of the book. It is obviously not equally harmful to me if you break into my house and steal my physical copy of the book than if you were to somehow go to the library and make a photocopy of the book. The difference, not at all subtle, is that when you steal something of mine (be it my book, my iPad, my shoes, my money, my immersion blender or whatever), I don’t have it anymore. If you copy something that you’re not allowed to copy without my permission, that’s a very different issue. Perhaps you deprive me of income I would have had if you hadn’t done that, or perhaps you don’t deprive me of anything. As I’ve said before, I sometimes beg online for someone to send me a copy of an academic article that I can’t get free access to. It’s never the case that my fallback option in this situation is to purchase an extremely expensive academic journal subscription. Nobody is harmed when this sort of copying occurs, and even in the cases where there is a harm the nature of the harm is quite different from the harm incurred in actual cases of theft.

"I’m not really sure why the people charged with enforcing copyright law are obsessed with obscuring this fact. . . . The regulations against copying are supposed to 'promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.' That’s a good reason to have a set of rules, but it’s a reason that has nothing to do with 'stealing.' The question is whether the rules we currently have are actually good ways to achieve this goal."

We had this discussion here a few months ago.

Invisible Art

Sells for $10,000.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In the public trust

The Art Newspaper reports that the Detroit Institute of Arts is "diverting the interest from acquisitions endowments to balance the museum’s budget."

Interestingly, the DIA's director is Graham Beal, who not too long ago was "cement[ing] his status as the field's most articulate spokesperson against desperation deaccessions" by insisting that "the institution is there to safeguard the art. The art is not there to support the institution."  (I guess the art isn't there to support the institution, but the art acquisitions fund is!)

The article emphasizes that Beal received permission from the donors of the relevant funds (or, more precisely, their estates/families).  Could the same approach be used to deaccession work?  Is getting permission from a "deceased donor's family" all it takes?

"It's first important to understand that this lawsuit offers a new take on the theme of what is original and therefore copyright-able."

Ed Winkleman on Janine Gordon's copyright suit against Ryan McGinley.  He says he's "not at all sure that we're even dealing with 'fair use' in this case.  The images seem so different."

"In the meantime, Mr. Prince’s unsold 'Canal Zone' paintings have been sequestered in a Long Island City warehouse ..."

"... as part of an agreement between both sides to forestall the paintings’ possible destruction—an option the district court had explicitly granted Mr. Cariou—at least until Cariou v. Prince is finally resolved."

"This was a betrayal of trust."

"Former [Salander-O'Reilly] art gallery director Leigh Morse escaped a lengthy prison term on Tuesday but will owe $1.65 million in restitution for defrauding clients."

"The press seized on the story, with a flurry of coverage lasting more than a year."

Did arts journalists save the Rose?

"It sounds as if this is a case of a mentally unbalanced thief, stealing not for profit, nor as a cunning collector, but as a sort of magpie."

David Nishimura on the recently arrested Mark Lugo.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"It is at least dawning on them that it's problematic." on Europe's droit de suite dilemma.

Related thoughts here.

More on Fashion and Copyright

The New York Times reports that "five years into a campaign by the Council of Fashion Designers of America to enact some sort of protection for original designs, the proponents of such legislation say they have their best chance yet at seeing a bill become law."  Matthew Yglesias says it's still a terrible idea:

"The article is full of examples of alleged copying which provide the motive for people to want to make said copying illegal. But the question, again, isn’t whether a lack of prohibitions on copying will allow for copying. The question is what’s the problem? If the problem is that there’s no innovation in fashion design, then perhaps time-limited monopoly grants to fashion designers is the answer. But is that a problem? Have high-end fashion houses stopped doing new lines? Do people just not bother to buy new clothes anymore? I’ve never heard anything like that ...."

Previous thoughts on this subject here.

Two Poussin Paintings Vandalized

In London.  Carol Vogel has the story.

"Art crime, you see, is a dumb crime."

"With masterpieces in particular, it's virtually impossible to find a buyer for a stolen work."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Virtual Barnes Tour

The New York Times has posted a virtual tour of the Barnes, "to convey at least a little of the flavor of the home Barnes built for his art."  And they sum up the controversy thusly:

"Critics of the move argue that it will destroy the character of one of the last truly personal visions for what an art museum can be, putting the collection in a more conventional setting and surrounding it with the accoutrements of every other museum, like a cafe, a bookstore, an auditorium. But some supporters point out that the plan for the new building in some ways maintains the layout of the original. They add that the Barnes, like all great art collections, should not be preserved in amber, and will continue to live only if it is allowed to change."

Artist Visited by Secret Service

Details here.

Charges Filed Against Guy Wildenstein

"French investigators have just charged a New York-based art dealer with 'possession of stolen goods' and 'breach of trust' in connection with 30 pieces of art that had been missing for decades and were rediscovered last year."

Ryan O'Neal, Farrah Fawcett, and Andy Warhol

The New York Post reports that "Ryan O'Neal has ... been sued by the University of Texas in an ongoing battle over an iconic silkscreen of Farrah Fawcett valued at $30 million."

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Russian Art Suit

"A European art buyer has sued ABA Gallery and its owner, Anatoly Bekkerman, of selling $6.5 million in fake and overvalued paintings by Russian artists."

More on the Biro Defamation Suit

Techdirt's Mike Masnick files it under "this-could-get-interesting" and says:  "The New Yorker actually has one of the best reputations around when it comes to fact checking. Perhaps there's something more that will come out during the trial, but I'd guess that it'll be difficult to get the defamation claim to stick."  In the comments, Julian Sanchez seconds the motion:  "The fact checking system at the New Yorker is pretty much the gold standard in journalism; I'd be astonished if this went anywhere."  Background here.

"My greatest fear is that, with all this attention on it, the person will realize it’s unsellable and will dispose of it in a less-than-proper manner."

A small Picasso drawing was stolen from a San Francisco gallery Tuesday.

Friday, July 01, 2011

"Her decision set out a strikingly narrow understanding of copyright's fair use doctrine ..."

" . . . by holding that a creative work that makes use of another, preexisting work can qualify as 'transformative' (and thus likely to be a permissible fair use) only if it refers to or comments on the older work."

Jones Day's Meir Feder and Rajeev Muttreja on the Prince-Cariou decision.

More on the Rose Settlement

The Boston Globe has expanded its story on the settlement.  The headline has changed -- it now says "Brandeis settles art museum suit" -- but the lede still says that, "according to a court settlement," Brandeis "will ... sell none of its prized collection."  Later, the story refers to a "written guarantee," a "written promise."

But, as I pointed out yesterday, all Brandeis put in writing (in the settlement agreement) is that it "has no aim, plan, design, strategy or intention to sell any artwork."

Brandeis's press release says "the settlement agreement ... states that ... Brandeis has no plan to sell artwork."

I understand why Brandeis would like people to think they've promised not to sell any work, and I can understand why the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are happy to play along.  But there simply is no promise, no guarantee, not to sell work.

Another Settlement

Lots of settlements of late:  Hangover II, the Peter Doig dispute, Brandeis-Rose.  And now we can add one more to the list:  the copyright infringement suit involving the "Broadway Dance Steps" public artwork in Seattle.  The defendant in the lawsuit, photographer Mike Hipple, says "I did not realize then that selling a photograph which includes part of a copyrighted public artwork can violate that copyright."