A rare permanently installed art project by Michael Asher has been destroyed. San Diego 6 and Hyperallergic have more on this story. I’d like to add that although the obvious question here is whether this project gets restored and how, one added question we have is how the answer to this question would differ if Asher were still alive.
You see, when it concerned his art projects, Asher’s way of thinking was that the events that unfolded due to an art projects reception and/or controversy would become part of the artwork. Most artists or their estates would react by having the work restored. However, having studied with Michael at CalArts, I’m not so sure he would have agreed. This poses an interesting question as to whether Asher left instructions regarding his art projects and legacy should such an event occur to one of his few existing projects. If not, then we’re left with his foundation, meaning that it will ultimately be up to the board members of that foundation to decide what to do with the destroyed water fountain.
If you’d like to read a bit more on this project, art historian Kirsi Peltomäki has some good thoughts on Asher’s water fountain and it’s relationship to Duchamp’s fountain and the historical legacy of public sculpture. Check out her book on Asher, Situation Aesthetics: The Work of Michael Asher.
Lastly, and sadly(?), no moral rights or VARA claims here. Asher is dead. However, certainly the water fountain’s owner and any other person or entity having any rights over Asher’s water fountain may have civil claims against the perpetrator. And of course, there are criminal charges that most likely will be brought as well.