A Notorious Use of Moral Rights
According to LA Weekly magazine, last October, CalArts alum, Olga Koumoundouros, “took over a foreclosed home across the street from where she lived and filled it with art that paid tribute to its former residents and meditated on the changing nature of home ownership. The intervention, which touched a populist nerve, went viral. The abandoned house instantly became a hub for art, performance and community organizing around the housing crisis. Although excitement was building, however, everyone involved knew that the project’s future was uncertain, given that the artist had no legal ties to the property, whose status was unknown at that time.”
Allegedly, two lawyers came to Koumoundouros’s aid and helped her fend off the property owner and his legal threats. It seems the lawyers took aim at the property owners with help of the well-known Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (“VARA”) and helped Koumoundouros keep the artworks she had produced and installed in the foreclosed home. Keep in mind that the First Circuit Court of Appeals has held that VARA does not protect site-specific artwork (although the Seventh Circuit, in dicta, allured to its possible protection) and it is unclear whether or not VARA protects works that were produced unlawfully on the property of others and without their consent.