What is a collector to do when he owns a work of art but it’s been de-authored (yes, I’m inventing this word) by the artist? What does he own?
Speaking about the Cady Noland and Christie’s lawsuits against Marc Jancou, art historian and critic Martha Buskirk explains,
But the money issue is ever-present, since Noland’s declaration abruptly propelled the object from high-value work of art to … some sort of eternal limbo. Jancou still has the object in question (for which he paid $106,500 in 2011), and there is nothing to prevent him from hanging it up and enjoying it in the privacy of his own home. It seems very unlikely, however, that he owns a work of art by Cady Noland that he can display or sell as such.
In theory there’s nothing wrong with owning a work of art that a collector once initially purchased, presumably, for the aesthetic value and that now carries a financial value of, let’s say, zero. He can still hang it in his living room or vacation home…or homes. He just can’t sell it, again, presumably, as a Cady Noland. But as we know, collectors don’t just buy art for its aesthetic value; they’re investments.
But it would be dangerous to overlook Jancou’s motivation, since this was, first and foremost, a business transaction: his resistance to Noland’s assessment of the aesthetic condition of her own work was clearly motivated by the very real threat to his potential auction profits. Noland is strikingly uninterested in playing the art-world game, other than her behind-the-scenes efforts to protect the integrity of her work. Perhaps her most telling indictment of the current state of affairs, however, can be found in the fact that she has pretty much ceased communicating about her art except through her lawyers.
So, the answer is, yes, this is a work by Cady Noland; you can’t de-author something you haven’t allegedly authored. However, this work does not have the financial value of a Cady Noland. Chalk it up to the force of law.
The money issue in art has come up quite a bit recently. The question is whether anything of substance will actually come of it. This is a good start.