Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tell me again about the public trust (Zao Wou-Ki "masterwork" edition)

The Guggenheim is deaccessioning a 1958 Zao Wou-Ki painting.  It's estimated at $7.7-10 million.

Because the sale proceeds will "go toward the museum's art fund," it's not the case that the work is held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations.

Judge and Mrs. Samuel I. Rosenman bought the work and donated it to the Guggenheim in 1964 but, again because the sale proceeds will go towards the museum's art fund, it's not the case that potential future donors will say "Why should I give this to you? What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?"  Collectors don't say that when sales proceeds go to buy more art.  That's a well-established empirical fact.

So, so very ethical.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

"An artist resale royalty is fair in principle for all visual artists. It would also address lingering inequities born of racism and allow the families of artists excluded from the art market to be appropriately recompensed." (UPDATED)

Maxwell Anderson had a recent piece in The Art Newspaper arguing in favor of resale royalty legislation, which he says "is expected to be reintroduced" in the new Congress.

One of the arguments people often make against the resale royalty is that it's not necessary:  that artists whose prices go significantly up reap the benefit of that when they sell their own work.  Anderson points out that one group of artists that's not always true for is "historically disadvantaged artists who have been left out of the American canon of art for reasons of race, gender or other socio-economic limitations. This is especially true of the many artists who lack representation or a presence in the art market until the end of their careers or posthumously."  For example:  "Consider the Gee’s Bend quilters of Alabama: with no access to the gallery system, many of their artworks were purchased by Atlanta collector William S. Arnett at a time when no viable market existed for their work. … Like many artists, the value of the quilt makers’ works has increased over time. But many of the artists have either passed away or are no longer producing works, and thus an improved market came too late to benefit them in their prime. One could cite many examples of this discrepancy throughout history."

UPDATE:  Brian Frye is unimpressed:  "Even the best arguments in favor of statutory artist resale royalties are comically bad. Yes, it is possible to hunt up artists who didn't profit from work that later became valuable. But they deserve money because they are poor, not because they are artists."

"Athletes Don’t Own Their Tattoos. That’s a Problem for Video Game Developers."

Another interesting story from around the holidays:  the New York Times reports on a series of lawsuits against sports video game makers by tattoo artists (for example, where the LeBron James character in a video game includes LeBron James's actual tattoos).

NYU's Christopher Sprigman says:

"All seem to agree that 1) tattoos [are] copyrightable, yet 2) tattooed person has [an] implied license to walk around in public. But why doesn’t [the] implied license include [the] power to authorize reproduction/distribution of one’s image, w/tats? Isn’t that protected by 1st Amendment?"

Annemarie Bridy agrees:

"The implied license should cover any actual or virtual appearance of the tattoo as long as it’s incidental to the appearance of the tattooed person."

(To which Sprigman responds:  "Agreed. This entire developing genre of 'let's shake down the video game companies w/some new tattoo copyright litigation' should end.")

The Kendrick Lamar infringement lawsuit also settled over the holidays

Story here.  The artist who sued him had won an important summary judgment victory in October.

"[B]ut didn't it all work out in the end?"

Still catching up on some year-end reading, and came across this, from Michael Hiltzik's list of the 10 best books he read in 2018, one of which was John Anderson's “Art Held Hostage: The Battle over the Barnes Collection”:

"Eventually, after intricate legal maneuvering, the entire collection was moved in 2012 to a new home in Philadelphia, into a painstaking replica of the interior of the Merion gallery. Art critics were divided, with some, including Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times, remaining unhappy, while others professed themselves to be pleasantly surprised at the resolution.  What remains clear is that the relocation finally opened up this outstanding collection to full public view. That points to a question that neither Anderson nor Argott adequately answers — what was wrong about moving the Barnes? It was locked in a community that didn’t want it, run by a board that couldn’t manage it, was all but invisible to the public and was threatened with physical deterioration."

Good question.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

"The divorce also threatens to expose the private dealings of one of the wealthiest and most influential families in the art world. Mr. Mugrabi, 47, is the scion of a powerful art-dealing family that is reportedly worth $5 billion and owns some 1,000 works by Warhol, making it the world’s largest private holding."

The New York Times on Libbie and David Mugrabi's divorce.

"[A]s long as dealers who show a lot of women artists pay those artists i am good with the dealer cheating on her taxes. It’s a wee bit bad-ass too. But you want ‘em to pay taxes, cool by me. She has to now. You win." (UPDATED)

Tweets Jerry Saltz, who was one of many "prominent art world figures" who wrote letters to the sentencing Judge on Mary Boone's behalf.

Paddy Johnson isn't having it:

"Taxes pay for food stamps, Medicare and the NEA. It’s not bad ass to opt out of those responsibilities so you can make improvements to your million dollar apartment and not stealing from your artists too doesn’t make it any better."

Nor is Rachel Wetzler:

"I'm not exactly cheering for Mary Boone to go to prison, but how warped does your worldview have to be to believe that it's OK for a millionaire to dodge taxes because you like her gallery programming?"

Nor is Columbia's Shamus Kahn:

"Spare us your righteous indignation about elites. Guess it doesn’t apply when they’re liberal and your friends."

UPDATE:  Saltz waves the white flag:  "BOY did I call this one wrong."

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

"Christie’s Sale of Francis Bacon Painting Draws Suits"

The work had been pledged as collateral for a $4.9 million loan. Details here.  Felix Salmon declares the suit "BONKERS."

"Mary Boone, Art Dealer, Cites Early Trauma in Bid to Avoid Prison" (UPDATED)

New York Time story here.  She plead guilty in September to tax fraud.  Sentencing is scheduled for later this month.

UPDATE:  Prosecutors are seeking 30 to 37 months.