Tuesday, June 30, 2015

More on that bill to protect art authenticators (UPDATED)

Which -- once again -- has not yet been enacted and probably won't have much of an effect if and when it does.  Anyway, the latest from artnet is here.

UPDATE:  More here from Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento.  The bottom line:  "It is doubtful the amendment in its current form will convince experts to return to the market."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Just because he is a well-known artist does not take away the fact that he is also a vandal."

The NYT this morning:

"The artist Shepard Fairey is a wanted man in Detroit. Police there issued a warrant for his arrest on Friday, charging that Mr. Fairey, the street artist-who-turned-legit, had illegally tagged multiple buildings in May, causing more than $9,000 worth of damage. He is charged with two counts of malicious destruction of property, The Detroit Free Press reported, felonies 'which carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail, plus fines that could exceed $10,000.'"

Monday, June 22, 2015

"An ugly word for an ugly deed"

Fintan O'Toole has an anti-deaccessioning piece in The Irish Times, pegged to the proposed sale of paintings from the Beit collection at Russborough House in County Wicklow.

It's of course nicely written, and he takes the position that "[t]he guiding truth on this whole issue should be that laid down by Susan Taylor, president of the Association of Art Museum Directors in the US:  'The principle for us is that works of art shouldn’t be considered liquid assets to be converted into cash. They’re records of human creativity that are held in the public trust.'"

But nowhere in the piece does he mention the inconvenient fact that the Association of Art Museum Directors in the US is perfectly happy to consider works of art liquid assets and convert them into cash ... just so long as the proceeds are used to buy more art.  In that case, they somehow cease to be records of human creativity that are held in the public trust.

Look, there are two coherent positions on this whole issue.

One is the one O'Toole sketches out here:  works of art should not be converted into cash.  They are records of human creativity that are held in the public trust.  To sell them is an ugly deed.

That's a coherent position.  It needs, in my view, to reckon with the kinds of counterargument that Michael O'Hare, for example, makes against it here.  But it's not an irrational stance to take.

The other coherent position is O'Hare's:  yes, these are enormously valuable things, and generally worth holding onto, but sometimes, depending on the circumstances, the benefits of selling one may exceed the costs.  You may not agree with it, you may make a different value judgment, but it's clearly not an irrational view.

But what's not a coherent position is the one the AAMD (and the rest of art world establishment) takes -- that works of art are records of human creativity held in the public trust and cannot be converted for cash, except when the museum wants to use the proceeds for one particular purpose (out of the hundreds of possible purposes), in which event they somehow cease to be held in the public trust and suddenly can be converted into cash without controversy.

Or, put even more simply (and to sum up thousands and thousands of words I've written on this issue at the blog):  they're either held in the public trust or they're not.

And, as I've also argued repeatedly, the museums themselves, by their own actions (routinely selling off works from their collections), tell us the answer is they're not.

Friday, June 19, 2015

"What Happens to Stolen Art After a Heist?"

James Tarmy takes us through it at BloombergBusiness.

"The power of Richard Prince’s art is that he has led us to this conversation in a way that mere words rarely can."

Interesting take from NYU's Chris Sprigman on the latest Richard Prince controversy.

More on 1031 exchanges of art

Brooklyn Law's Bradley Borden has a good summary here.  The punchline:

"Owners of art and collectibles should ... be concerned, however, because many such transactions may not satisfy the technical requirements of the tax law. Owners of art and collectibles must tread carefully when claiming tax-free treatment on the transfer of such property. The law governing tax-free exchanges of art and collectibles is a veritable minefield, and the slightest foot-fault with such transactions could result in significant amounts of tax."

For a longer version from Borden, see here.

For a recent discussion of the issue, see here.

"It's not a crime; it's artwork…He's an intellectual."

artnet:  Former MIT Professor Joseph Gibbons Pleads Guilty to Art Project Heist.

Hold that sigh of relief (UPDATED 2X)

Hyperallergic had a report a couple days ago suggesting that the "much-anticipated legislation" protecting art authenticators from frivolous lawsuits had passed into law.  Not quite yet.  What happened was it passed in the State Senate; it still needs to be voted on in the State Assembly, and that probably won't happen until next year.

I'm on record as a skeptic of whether this law will make as much of a difference as people seem to think.

UPDATE:  The story has been updated to now say that, "[t]hough the bill has cleared one major hurdle with the State Senate’s approval, it still needs to be voted on by the State Assembly before it passes into law."

UPDATE 2:  Nicholas O'Donnell provides even more reasons to be skeptical that the law will have as much impact as advertised:  "When I first saw the news it seemed like a minor development, but then I went and read the bill.  It stripped out a material aspect of the bill first proposed last year that would have required plaintiffs seeking damages against authenticators to prove their case by clear and convincing evidence, a daunting standard.  Heightened pleading requirements are still contained within the bill, but the attorneys’ fees provision has also been watered down, with such an award now discretionary rather than mandatory."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

There's no mention of the D-word in the article ...

... but the Washington Post has a story about how the University of Virginia's School of Architecture funded its doctoral program by selling some art.

Imagine how upset the Deaccession Police will be when they find out about this.  So repulsive and unethical.

But seriously:  no one can actually have a problem with this ... right?

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Caught in the crossfire

The Art Newspaper's Corinna Kirsch on art teachers and Title IX (which has been in the news a lot lately).


Bloomberg columnist Virginia Postrel takes notice of Michael O'Hare's recent "iconoclastic" article calling for "more, better engagement with art."  She's in favor, and points out how the Deaccession Police are not:

"Museums do sometimes sell works from their collection. It’s called 'deaccessioning.' But they can’t use the money to reduce admissions fees, improve educational programs, pay guards for extended hours, or install benches or better lighting -- no matter how much these investments might enhance their visitors’ experience. If they want to stay in the art museum club, they can only sell art to buy more art.

"Any other use violates the 'ethics' code of the Association of Art Museum Directors, a group that stringently enforces its art-hoarding cartel. Museums that break the rules lose their accreditation and can’t borrow from, lend to, or otherwise cooperate with other museums."

And she ends with some praise for Eli Broad's soon-to-open new museum:

"Unlike LACMA or the Museum of Contemporary Art across the street, when the Broad museum opens this fall it won’t charge admission. It will also house a 'lending library' of artworks available to other museums, including small ones. To fulfill O’Hare’s vision of 'more, better engagement with art,' maybe you have to start from scratch."

Read the whole thing.  This is not the first time Postrel has waded into the Deaccession Debate.

O'Hare has a short response here.

More on insurance for conceptual art

Here.  Previous post here.

"Museums are really not set up to represent artists"

A great piece in The Art Newspaper by Julia Halperin on artist Scott Burton, who left his entire estate to the Museum of Modern Art:  MoMA struggles to fulfil sculptor's last wishes.

"'It's not his duck,' Samborski insists. 'It's just another large inflatable duck.'"

Philadelphia Magazine has a story about the organizers of the "Tall Ships Festival" there ripping off artist Florentijn Hofman.  The IP lawyer quoted at the end is probably right that Hofman can't claim copyright in the idea of a very large rubber duck, but it's still not cool (technical legal term).