Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Big Fake

ARTnews has a long post-mortem on the Knoedler trial.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

If only they had some way to close this deficit

The NYT's Robin Pogrebin reports on financial trouble at the Met.  They're facing a $10 million deficit this year.  Staff reductions and reduced programming will follow.

But the important thing to understand here is that this is a choice.  They could close that deficit in a heartbeat if they wanted to.

As Berkeley's Michael O'Hare puts it:

"Wait a minute .... The Met has a collection worth at least $60 billion, thousands and thousands of objects almost none of which (by object count or square feet of picture) is ever shown or ever will be.  ... Selling just two percent ..., for example, could endow free admission forever. Selling .3 percent would cover that pesky deficit, also forever.  ... Nothing in the Met’s mission statement suggests its purpose is to accumulate as much art as possible where no-one sees it. But the Met and all the other big art museums have insulated themselves from this sort of awkward question by writing a code of ethics that forbids any museum from selling anything except to buy more art."

(For a longer version of O'Hare's argument, see here.)

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones seconds the motion:

"The art world generally believes that deaccessioning is a horror because art is a public trust blah blah blah. This is little more than meaningless word salad.  ... [I]t's hard to understand why art museums, alone among all the institutions of mankind, should be required to never sell anything they own. Perhaps this statement from the AAMD about the Delaware Art Museum's auction tells the real story: 'It is also sending a clear signal to its audiences that private support is unnecessary, since it can always sell additional items from its collection to cover its costs.'  We can't have that, can we? That would prevent museums from raising money with scary campaigns about shutting down or firing half their staff or cutting hours to the bone."

Drum also predicts what would happen if the deaccessioning taboo were ditched.

"What would happen? My guess is: nothing much. Museums that gained a reputation for doing it routinely would indeed suffer a drop in private donations, and that would act as a natural brake on the practice. Other museums would benefit, as they were freed to occasionally sell off less important parts of their collection in order to pay bills or undertake other worthy endeavors. And huge museums like the Met, with caverns full of artwork that's never shown and has limited scholarly use, could not only shore up their finances but improve the world by selling pieces to smaller, more specialized museums that would show it."

"Tisch's lawyer ... said his client realized in recent years that the painting was missing from her art studded apartment, but she wasn't sure where it was, whether in storage or out for repairs."

The Daily News on a New York state court lawsuit that presents interesting statute of limitations/laches issues.

"On April 6, Mr. Chrismas lost the keys to his gallery, after failing to make a $17.5 million court-ordered payment to settle his debts in a long-running Chapter 11 bankruptcy case."

Jori Finkel on the Ace Gallery bankruptcy.

"Los Angeles Art Dealer Is Arrested on Embezzlement Charges"

New York Times story here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cert denied in the Google Books case

Story here.  Background here.

"Why don’t many galleries list their prices?"

Paddy Johnson points to one explanation from artnet:  "So tax authorities can’t track their client purchases."  She offers another alternative:  "Isn’t this practice mostly about marketing? Luxury items frequently don’t come with a price tag attached to the piece. Part of what you purchase, when buying these goods, is the doting sales pitch that comes along with it."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

No Soup Cans For You

Seven Warhol Soup Can prints have been stolen from a Missouri museum.  Michiko Kakutani tweets that, by breaking up the series of 10, the thieves "devalu[ed] whatever profits they would hope to make off the heist."

BREAKING: Dismissal Granted in California Resale Royalty Case (UPDATED 3X)

I'll post a link when I have one, but the District Court in California has granted the defendants' motion to dismiss (what's left of) the California Resale Royalty lawsuit on the grounds that the state statute is preempted by the first sale doctrine under the federal Copyright Act.  The court (affirmed by the Ninth Circuit) had previously ruled that the statute could not reach sales that took place outside of California.  This decision now throws out the whole statute -- even for sales within California.  Back up to the Ninth Circuit we go.

UPDATE:  News story here.

UPDATE 2:  Here is the Los Angeles Business Journal.

UPDATE 3:  Here's the decision.

"Artist Claims Copyright to Four Photos of Robert Mapplethorpe in $65 Million Lawsuit"

Also while I was away, a "poet, actor, photographer, and makeup artist" named James R. Miller filed a lawsuit against the Mapplethorpe Foundation (and others) claiming copyright ownership in four Mapplethorpe works created in 1979.  Benjamin Sutton has the details here.

The first hurdle Mr. Miller is going to face is the statute of limitations:  he claims to have known the photos were attributed to Mapplethorpe since 1988, and that he has "attempted several times over the last 27 years to correct the historical and artistic record."

You may want to brace yourself for this

But the Tennessean reports that the Stieglitz Collection has returned to Fisk University after a two-year stint at the Crystal Bridges Museum.  Not only that, it returns to a newly renovated space at the university.  This tragic story just keeps getting worse.

Swedish Model

Art F City notes a Swedish court ruling against Wikimedia, holding that "images of public art are not public domain, but belong to the artists who created the original works" and asks if "a policy like this in the US" would make “Cloud Gate” selfies illegal.  The answer is that that is the policy in the US -- i.e., the copyright to works of public art belong to the artists who created them.

Another reminder about the idea/expression distinction

Via Rebecca Tushnet.  Earlier example (among many) here.

"It hardly comes as much of a surprise that amid the high-profile scandals and tales of political corruption in the Panama Papers, art is something of a constant" (UPDATED)

I was away last week (I had a tip on the location of Mr. X, but sadly it turned out to be a false lead), but the big news was that the Panama Papers include a ton of art-related stuff.  Dig in here, here, and here.

UPDATE:  Tyler Cowen on a more general question raised by the leak.