Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Calling Bull on Art

Image courtesy of Sebastian Alvarez. Via Wikipedia and Creative Commons License.

Image courtesy of Sebastian Alvarez. Via Wikipedia and Creative Commons License.

There’s been so much coverage of the Charging Bull-Fearless Girl controversy that it’s hard to keep track. So, what we’ll do here, in pure shameless self-promotion, is highlight two articles that quote our very own Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento.

Both articles (Artsy and the Christian Science Monitor) question whether an artist can “control the meaning” of her/his artwork. Although this is how recent media attention is spinning this dispute, we’re not so sure it’s about “control” so much as it’s about whether or not there are legitimate legal violations. The bull’s author, Arturo Di Modica, argues copyright, trademark and moral rights violations. Fair enough. Are there other claims? Perhaps, or, it depends, as most law professors would profess.

Nevertheless, we would encourage our readers to not get caught up on the usual frenzy (or libidinal intensity, as Lyotard would say) and misplaced energy of arguing that “art” is being silenced. Let’s not be too philanthropic with how we define “art.” Not every fart in the wind is worthy of being called art. If an “artist” broke into a home–your home, dear reader, your home–and dumped three tons of animal feces in the master bedroom and called it art, we would probably not have much difficulty agreeing that the “artist” (and her friends and critics) are free to call it “art” (even given that Piero Manzoni made a similar, albeit smaller, observation in 1961). But this would not–would not–preclude the home-owner (or you, dear reader, you, if it was your home), from hiring an attorney to come up with a litany of legal claims against said artiste! So, art? Yeah, maybe. Legal claims? Hell yeah.

Let’s be honest: once you’ve placed a urinal in a gallery, been shot in the arm with a rifle, masturbated under floorboards, and tattooed prostitutes as art, it’s intellectually dishonest to say that everything is art. It was.



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