Saturday, July 30, 2016

The selfie monkey is appealing

Story here.  Appropriate reaction from Mike Masnick here.  Background here.

Is a copyright small claims court a good idea?

Kevin Smith doesn't think so, at least not in the form envisioned by the recently introduced CASE Act:  "I think that the proposed legislation would make it easier for Big Content, and especially for the copyright trolls who are often their vanguard, to bully ordinary individuals and increase the phenomena of copyright enforcement by fear, rather than through the law."

Another risk of being in the authentication game

artnet:  "French scholar Marc Restellini has braved death threats over his efforts to authenticate works by the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani."

Friday, July 29, 2016

"There’s something strange about the view that universities should never sell their art, no matter what."

It's an interesting, and undeniable, feature of the deaccessioning debate that any time someone from outside the art world looks at the issue -- anyone, that is, who is not worried about being banished from the cool kids table in the cafeteria -- they find the deaccessioning taboo to be nonsensical. (Some previous examples here, here, here, and here.)

The latest is Harvard lawprof Noah Feldman, reacting, in his latest Bloomberg column, to the revelation that Fisk University sold two paintings a few years ago (sold them "under the radar," according to the New York Times ... and don't get me started on the Times's role in all this craziness). Feldman writes:

"The real question is whether a university should treat its works of art as commodities to be sold in a pinch or as fetishes to be worshipped and preserved no matter what. The former view may be a bit crude. But the latter view is absurd for an institution facing financial strain and deep cuts to its education mission. History, legacy and atmosphere can enhance the educational experience. But ultimately, they are supposed to serve education, not take priority over it. Give Fisk a break. Or give it a donation."

He's right that it's absurd -- not just wrong or misguided, but absurd -- and why anyone takes the deaccession police the least bit seriously remains one of life's great mysteries to me.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

“Mr. Schneiderman said that state law requires sales tax to be paid when possession of a good is transferred to a buyer within New York State and that the gallery, in handing over art to shipping companies that were not common carriers like FedEx or the United States Postal Service, was legally transferring possession to the buyer at that point.”

Randy Kennedy had a report in the NYT yesterday that Gagosian Gallery has agreed to pay New York State $4.3 million in back sales tax, interest, and penalties.  There were a number of different issues in play, but one of them is the one I quoted in the header above – and that kind of silly formalism has never made any sense to me.  If it’s a legitimate out-of-state sale – there’s no game-playing going on, the buyer genuinely has a home somewhere else – why should it matter whether the work ships by FedEx or by common carrier or by horse and buggy?

There is an art connection in the 1MDB embezzlement case

On the matter generally, see here.  On the art connection, see Kelly Crow at the Wall Street Journal and Eileen Kinsella at artnet.  And the Art Market Monitor says:

"The unanswered question surrounding Jho Low’s adventure in the art market is what he was hoping to accomplish with his art and real estate purposes. The assumption is that he was hoping to make quick gains by investing in art and real estate using borrowed money from 1MDB and multiplying that with leverage from other sources. But most of Low’s purchases were made at the top end of the market. In that range, Low was behaving more like a trophy or status buyer than a speculator."

"The balance of power in the forgery detection game is about to shift." (UPDATED)

Artsy:  These Four Technologies May Finally Put an End to Art Forgery.

UPDATE:  Tim Schneider:  "The cross-sector enthusiasm for these innovations shows why I expect technology to make a vastly bigger impact on art services than art sales. The most powerful gallerists and dealers will be happy to buy into a better mousetrap if it enhances their core business––and, unlike e-commerce, poses no threat to the aura of exclusivity and exceptionalism that has driven that business since its inception."

Saturday, July 16, 2016

"The hapless pensioner explained to police that she was simply following the instructions."

The Telegraph:  91-year-old woman fills in crossword at museum - only to discover it was a £60,000 artwork:

"'Reading-work-piece', a 1977 work by Arthur Köpcke of the Fluxus movement, essentially looks like an empty crossword puzzle.  Next to the work is a sign which reads: 'Insert words'."

The museum says "in the future it would alter the label for the work to make it clear visitors were not permitted to fill in the blanks."  But Ann Althouse asks, "Doesn't that wreck the work of art?"

Rhett Jones says "Something tells us the Fluxus people would like this story."

Friday, July 15, 2016

"The smoke is clearing." (UPDATED)

The Observer:  What We Learned From the Knoedler Trial and Scandal.

Short answer:  not a lot.

UPDATE:  The Art Market Monitor: "To sneer and mock the buyers of these fakes may make the crowd feel superior but it does nothing to explain how so many sophisticated buyers were eager to acquire these fakes."

"Met to Cut 100 or More Jobs in a Move to Steady Finances" (UPDATED)

Robin Pogrebin has the story here.

Remember, this is a choice.  They don't have to let these people go.

UPDATE:  "Campbell said exhibitions would be cut to 40 per year from 55 to reduce costs. That’s more than a quarter."  Also a choice.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Germany's strict new "public trust" law has passed

Dealers call it "the most stringent import and export restrictions on cultural objects in the world" and say "private collectors were already moving valuable works abroad before the law’s passage to avoid the new regulations."

The German culture minister would make a good member of the Deaccession Police:  she says "Germany spends billions in tax money to promote culture. It is therefore a matter of course that we should protect and keep our own cultural heritage."

In other words, because we subsidize, in a general way, "culture," we now own these very particular items of culture which may or may not have had any direct connection to the billions in tax money that's been spent.  All your culture are belong to us.

Some background here and here.

Another weird authentication case

What happens when a forger admits to forging an artist's work ... but the artist disagrees and declares the work authentic?  We're finding out right now, in South Korea, with artist Lee Ufan.

"Who Gets the Subsidized Apartments?"

A New York Times editorial this week:  "A new study of [federally financed affordable housing for artists] suggests it might worsen racial segregation by bypassing black and Latino people in favor of younger, white tenants."

"Pictures in the Sunday Styles tribute were of Cunningham by other photographers, or black-and-white images of newspaper clippings of his columns, which an insider pointed out is a way to get around the rights issues."

Page Six is reporting that Bill Cunningham died without a will, and (surprisingly to me at least) the Times has no ongoing rights to use his photos.  His heirs include "several nieces and nephews."

Saturday, July 09, 2016

The perils of authenticating, part infinity

The NYT's Graham Bowley had a detailed report this week on a fascinating lawsuit in federal court in Illinois:  artist Peter Doig is being sued for denying authorship of a work the owner claims he made as a teenage inmate at a Canadian detention facility.  Doig's motion for summary judgment has been denied, and the case is scheduled for trial next month.

Bowley says "even if the court favors [the owner], it could be a hollow victory. Since the artist himself and the dealer who represents him say it’s not a Doig, the art market is unlikely to assign much value to it, art experts said" -- but if he wins, Doig might have to pay him the value of the painting, which wouldn't be hollow at all.

This is scary stuff.  As Nicholas O'Donnell says in the article, it "put[s] at artists in the cross hairs."  Or as Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento says, "[a] decision against Doig could have shocking consequences for artists."

Friday, July 08, 2016

Held in the public cone

An ice cream museum is popping up in Manhattan later this month, near the Whitney.

You can only eat a scoop if you replace it with another scoop.  #deaccessioninghumor

I'll be here all week.

Friday, July 01, 2016