Monday, June 5, 2023

McMullen Museum of Art Claims Fair Use of Pollock Images

Donn Zaretsky and Steven Levitt reported yesterday that The Pollock Krasner Foundation in New York, whose mission is to safeguard the legacy of Jackson Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner, refused six months ago to allow the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College to reproduce authentic Pollocks alongside the newly discovered works.

But the exhibition’s catalog — released only last Saturday afternoon — reproduced a handful of authentic Pollocks against the foundation’s wishes. “We were shocked to find that the museum had published copyrighted images in their catalog,” Ronald Spencer, attorney for the foundation, said Thursday.

“We were uncomfortable with it because any time a document is produced such as an exhibition catalog, it can be used down the road as a selling document to sell the paintings,” Spencer said.

“Clearly, the museum kept the catalog undistributed until the very last moment over the Labor Day weekend, with the apparent goal of making it extremely difficult for us to do anything about the distribution,” Spencer said.

Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art issued the following statement:

“Following the Pollock Krasner Foundation’s decision to withhold permission to reproduce works of Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock in the PollockMatters catalogue, Boston College worked closely with copyright counsel to produce a catalogue incorporating those images needed to publish our contributors’ scholarship in conformity with fair use principles.”

As Zaretsky rightly points out in his blog, “fair use” cases are notoriously difficult to call.” Although it seems like it is becoming customary museum practice to disavow copyright and VARA laws, in this case Boston College seems to have a valid and solid reason for dismissing the Pollock Estate’s denial. CLANCCO has not viewed the catalog and thus cannot adequately assess the four “fair use” factors until it does so. Until then, or until the parties settle, we’ll see what happens. More on this as the situation develops, but so far, Museums-1, Artists-1.



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