Friday, August 31, 2012

"It’s unclear to me what, exactly, is being licensed."

Mike Madison on a deal between the Warhol Foundation and Campbell's Soup.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Artelligence 3

Another terrific-sounding conference from The Art Market Monitor.  September 13.  Register here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Handicapping Prince-Cariou

Rachel Corbett talks to Columbia's Pippa Loengard about the possibilities.

"Does this represent a new line in the sand … a raising of the bar for all of us in the arts?"

Diane Ragsdale has some questions about the Detroit Institute's recent millage campaign.

Related post from Nina Simon.

"I looked upon my activities as a contest of wits with world experts, and I enjoyed every moment of it."

NPR has a story on forger Ken PerenyiDerek Fincham says Perenyi "does not exactly seem to have reformed."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"40 Kinkade paintings are gone, and local art dealers are on alert for limited edition prints."

A bunch of Thomas Kinkade paintings were stolen from a California "shop owner."  He says "evidently they [the thieves] had some discrimination."  Dan Duray isn't so sure about that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What do they call it again when you do the same thing over and over and expect a different result?

I see the Friends of the Barnes have posted the latest petition to re-open the lawsuit based on the "shocking" new evidence that the Barnes was not bankrupt at the time of their initial petition.  They've also posted the Barnes's response, seeking a fresh round of sanctions (which I'd bet they'll get).

Beyond the obvious issue of standing, the Barnes's response points out that the shocking new evidence "is not new":  "No witness at the hearing ever claimed that the Foundation filed its petition because it was bankrupt; indeed, the testimony made clear that the Foundation was desperately seeking to reverse its financial distress so that it could avoid bankruptcy."   They quote extensively from the Jan. 2004 interim opinion which I summarized recently here, and note that, after surveying the evidence, Judge Ott concluded:  "What has been established beyond peradventure is that The Foundation's finances have reached a critical point."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"I have a lot more faith in donors than in the AAMD and its selectively, inconsistently enforced policies that generally apply the myopic rule of one-size-fits-all."

I'm making former Crystal Bridges curator Chris Crosman an honorary member of my Museum Directors Hall of Fame.  At Lee Rosenbaum's blog, he argues that "Fisk needs to be unshackled from patronizing, museum establishment-imposed bonds that do not address Fisk's unique circumstances and rich history."  "Fisk's future," he says, "must be its own to determine."

He joins Hugh Davies, who called "B.S." on the "held in trust" argument; Richard Armstrong, who called for an "infusion of pragmatism" (another way of saying enough with the myopic rule of one-size-fits-all); Christine Miles; David Gordon; and of course Gresham Riley, after whom the Riley Wing of the Hall of Fame is named, who persuasively argued that the AAMD policy is "an exercise in smoke and mirrors."

One striking thing about the Hall of Fame members is that no one on the other side ever actually engages with their arguments.  Instead, from time to time the Deaccession Police gather their pitchforks and do their little "held in trust" dance and pretend that no one has noticed that their prissy fatwa makes absolutely no sense.

Two Simple Words in the English Language

The Wall Street Journal:  The Lawyer Who Forgot He Was a Thief.

Call it the Steve Martin Defense.

Abandoned Ship

I also see that the defendant prevailed in the Burning Man/La Contessa trial.  The jury found that the plaintiff abandoned the work, so the defendant could not be liable for "conversion."  The plaintiff says he will appeal to the Ninth Circuit on his previously-dismissed VARA claim, which is the more interesting issue anway.

Tell me again about the public trust (secret Picasso edition)

Also while I was away, I see American museums continue to do a bang-up job of making sure important works from their collections will be accessible to present and future generations.  The latest example is the Evansville Museum, which recently discovered, after 50 years, that a work that had been given to it was a Picasso ... and promptly decided that the best reaction to this happy discovery was to sell the work.

That must be sub-clause (iii) of rule (a) of section 17 of the Held In The Public Trust Rules (copies available upon request from the AAMD).  That sub-clause states that if a museum discovers that a work is more valuable than it had previously believed, then that work is no longer Held In The Public Trust to be accessible to present and future generations.  Makes perfect sense, if you think about it.

It's also interesting that this may be a real-life example of a Schrodinger's Deaccessioning.  The museum says it "will make no immediate decisions about utilizing funds from a successful sale."  That may be why the Deaccession Police haven't pounced (it may also be that it's August).  They don't know yet whether to be repulsed or not.  If the museum decided to use the proceeds for anything other than buying more art, there will be hell to pay.  But if they decide to buy more art, well, that's a perfectly normal act, to be encouraged.  It's all right there, in the rulebook.

"This type of inquisitive approach falls short of the 'hatchet job' that Biro's counsel described at oral argument."

While I was away, the district court dismissed "most of" Peter Paul Biro's defamation claims against The New Yorker at the pleading stage.  The opinion is here.  The court noted that in the Second Circuit you can't bring a defamation suit based on the "overall impact" of an article, and threw in some helpful literary criticism as well:  "At the end of the [New Yorker] article, the reader is left genuinely uncertain what to believe. ... If anything, the Article seeks to draw a parallel between the idea that one can never be wholly certain whether a piece of art is truly 'authentic' ... with the idea that it is difficult to fully know the truth about who a person is."  Precisely.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Break in the Action

I'm away again this week, so, unless something really important happens, things'll be quiet around here until next week.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

"The levy is expected to raise $23 million a year."

The new property tax to benefit the Detroit Insitute passed in all three counties yesterday.  Story here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

"How can anyone outside of a comic opera expect the authenticity of an old painting to be settled by a lawsuit?"

Patricia Cohen has an interesting article in yesterday's Times on "the divide between the court and the market" when it comes to assessing authenticity claims.

One of the themes that runs through the piece is that what a court says is "meaningless," because whether or not a work will be accepted as authentic is "a function of the marketplace."   That's no doubt true, but that doesn't mean the legal outcome is meaningless.  If a plaintiff prevails against an expert for claiming a work is inauthentic, or a foundation for refusing to authenticate a work, then, although the market is still free to (and likely will) ignore the court's decision, the consequences to the parties to the lawsuit are enormous.  A court can't compel the market to accept that your Picasso is real; but it can award you the millions of dollars you would be entitled to if it could.  That means something.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

"The harm would come from the fact that no accredited museum would lend art to the DIA."

I mentioned Judith Dobrzynski's Wall Street Journal article last week about the DIA millage proposal.  She has a follow-up post at her blog.  Check out the comments as well, from which the above quote is taken.

Fisk Fight Finally Finished

The collection-sharing arrangement between Fisk University and the Crystal Bridges Museum has been finally approved.

I assume everyone is happy about this because, besides sharing the financial burden, having a second venue is fair to the art and to the artists, who get more visibility.  Right?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

"The Barnes definitely has the goods."

"And for the first time, you can really see them."

Burning Down the Bus

Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento notes that a trial is under way over the destruction of a Burning Man art project.  As he points out, the Court already dismissed the artists' VARA claims on the ground that the work at issue was "applied art" (and thus excluded from VARA-protection) "because it was used and intended to be used as a mobile stage for performances."  They still have a common law conversion claim for the destruction of their property, though the Court noted on summary judgment that it's not so clear they owned it:  "the only documentation supporting [the artists'] claim of ownership is the receipt showing Cheffins' purchase of the bus in 2002"; there is "no proof of registration of insurance"; and their limited contact with the work "in the year before its destruction suggests possible abandonment."

"If the tax fails, Mr. Beal says he'd have to cut the museum's budget immediately: laying off 70 people; closing on weekdays except perhaps Fridays; shuttering half the galleries; stopping many educational programs; and curtailing some temporary exhibitions."

Judith Dobrzynski has a piece in the Wall Street Journal on the Detroit Institute of Arts' property tax proposal.