Saturday, December 2, 2023

Law Defining Art Gets an Update

Artist Bjarne Melgaard was stopped by Norway’s customs officials, who argued his 16 works did not constitute art. This is all too familiar after the infamous 1928 lawsuit Brancusi vs. United States, when Constantin Brancusi was stopped by customs, who did not believe the work “Bird in Space” (now on display in many major museums such as MoMA) constituted art, and thus should be taxed at customs. Similarly, Norwegian customs agents held Melgaard was subject to $153,024 in taxes to ship the works, as they fell outside of the art exception.

The main issue was that the canvases were printed, and not hand painted. NRK News reported Thorbjørn Jacobsen, chief operations officer at Norway’s airport stating: “the general public’s definition of what constitutes art does not always mesh with the definition of art in the (state) regulations… In order for a painting to be defined as a work of art, it must have been created by the hand of the artist.”

The outdated law has promptly been changed, however.



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