Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"But the most curious aspect of deaccessioning norms is their incoherence."

Brian Frye has a really interesting post on deaccessioning over at the Nonprofit Law Prof Blog.  He has some very generous things to say about my writings on the subject, building up to the following point:

"As any economist knows, incentives matter. So what are the incentives for deaccessioning norms? The art market depends on scarcity. For most works of authorship, scarcity is ensured by copyright. But the art world is unusual in that the scarcity of artworks is ensured by the fact that they are unique or artificially limited objects. In other words, the value of artworks is maintained by the fact that there is a limited number of works on the market. At least in part because a vast number of artworks are in the collection of museums, which are largely prevented from selling those works by deaccessioning norms. How do museums obtain those works? Often by donation, typically from the very people who buy and sell those works for profit. The people who donate works to museums have a vested interest in ensuring that donated works stay out of the market, in order to ensure scarcity."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What culture? What public?

I contributed to an online debate at the website of the Colección Cisneros on the question "Does the public have a right to culture?"  Sergio Munoz Sarmiento kicks off the discussion here.  My response is here.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

More monkey business (UPDATED)

Apparently a lawsuit has been filed over the famous monkey selfie ... on behalf of the monkey.  I kid you not.  Slate's Jordan Weissmann gets this one right, I think:

"First, it's obvious that copyright is a sideshow here. The lawsuit is part of a thus-far-unsuccessful line of 'animal personhood' cases, which have tried to claim that various fauna deserve rights similar to homo sapiens. These are, suffice to say, a bit controversial, seeing as they would upend everything from scientific testing on animals to, possibly, the existence of zoos.  ...  Even if you are the sort who believes that animals should be entitled to some human rights, however, extending that idea to intellectual property law is patently idiotic. Copyrights exist in order to encourage more artists, writers, and musicians to create new work by making sure they can earn money off of their labor. ... Giving a macaque a copyright, meanwhile, does not promote jack. You cannot incentivize a monkey to spend more time behind a camera by dangling out the promise of financial compensation. ... OK. So, PETA filed a silly lawsuit. In other news, it was warm in Florida last week, and Starbucks is doing a brisk business in pumpkin spice lattes. The reason this suit is particularly galling, though, is that, in this case, the group has sued not a massive corporation with a significant legal budget, but a random nature photographer, who will likely have to drag himself into court and quite possibly spend some of his own money to defend this ludicrous claim, at least until a judge has the decent sense to dismiss it."

UPDATE:  Howard Wasserman at PrawfsBlawg:  "The lawsuit raises an interesting (although I believe easy) question of statutory standing and the zone of interests of the copyright laws--namely, whether a non-human enjoys rights under the statute. This article explains why the answer should be no."

"A French appeals court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit by the descendants of the art collector Peggy Guggenheim ..."

". . . who had sought to gain more control over how her Venice museum is managed by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York."

Good question

Nate Harrison:  What Is Transformative?

"In the high-stakes art world, a fear of lawsuits is putting a muzzle on authenticators."

I'm quoted in this Fortune magazine story on authentication.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Franz West Archive Sues Gagosian

Eileen Kinsella has the story here.  In a nutshell, there are apparently two entities -- the Archiv Franz West and another private foundation he created near the end of his life -- who are battling it out in the Austrian courts over ownership of certain copyrights.  Gagosian seems to be caught in the middle.  The judge here in New York has denied the Archive's request for a TRO blocking the gallery's current West show in its Madison Avenue space.

Breaking News: Your art dealer is not your friend

Via Clancco.

More on the Effective Altruism Movement

In the London Review of Books.

"We've also hired a lawyer to sue Shin Gallery for damages to the value of our condominiums. See you in a Court of Law."

A neighbor -- who "paid $1.3 million for my condo at 50 Orchard Street" -- is threatening to sue a Lower East Side Gallery because of the fake massage parlor they've installed at the gallery (until November). Gothamist's Lauren Evans brings the mockery.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Is the effective altruism movement bad for the arts? (UPDATED)

Discussed here.

UPDATE:  Related thoughts from two of the sharpest guys around:  Adrian Ellis here, and Felix Salmon here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Kenneth Rogoff on the art market and capital flight from China

Here.  An opposing view here.

Tell me again about the public trust (sing louder edition)

ARTnews reports that Christie’s will be auctioning off more than 200 works from the Met's collection of English furniture and decorative arts next month.

That's more than 200 works that, having fallen under the aegis of a museum, were held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations -- except now, it having been determined that they "would sing louder and better in someone’s home," are being "liberated."  They are no longer part of the public trust.  Voila.

You may also be concerned that future potential donors of English furniture and decorative arts might say, Why should I give this to you? What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?  But don't worry:  they will understand that, unlike the more than 200 works the museum is selling now, the works they are thinking of donating clearly will sing louder and better in the museum.  It's easy to tell which works sing louder in which settings.  And better.  It's easy to tell if the work you are thinking of donating will sing better at the museum.  No uncertainty about that at all.  So there's nothing to worry about.  It's all good.

Held in the public trust ...

. . . at least until the expiration date.

The Museum of Food and Drink is coming to Brooklyn.