Monday, September 25, 2017

Should There Be Laws Against Certain Artistic Expressions?

Feet First (Prima i piedi) (1990), Martin Kippenberger.

In today’s Art Newspaper, Sheikh Zayed, a professor from the University of Cambridge, writes about the contradictions and hypocrisy of liberals in their attempt to explain why blasphemies against Islam are a valid expression of artistic license.

The same religionists are laughing at liberal attempts to explain why blasphemies against Islam are a valid expression of artistic licence, while certain western legal and moral taboos may be acceptably internalised by curators and by legislation. Yet even in Sweden, just two years ago, the Linköping municipality banned posters for a rock festival that showed Satan excreting on a cross. And in Denmark, the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which had defended its right to publish cartoons of the Prophet, retreated from its stated intention to publish a cartoon that lampooned the Holocaust. Muslims are not slow to note these contradictions, and to observe with amusement the verbal acrobatics of western moralisers who seek to justify them. [italics added]

Zayed makes a good point. Why allow attacks on certain religious ideologies and beliefs, and yet simultaneously cry for punishment or the silencing of so-called hate speech, racist speech, sexist speech, or defamation? For Zayed, if you’re going to protect the aforementioned, then you’ll have to extend that same courtesy and protection to Islam.

Yet just as more secular vulnerabilities deserve protection, in the form of laws against libel, slander, racism, or Holocaust denial, so too do the no less tender sensibilities of religious believers. To assume that the infringement of secular honour is of moral and legal concern, while religionists must be fair game, is arbitrary and unjust.

What’s fascinating about this position is that it argues for the expansion and extension of law into that of artistic speech, effectively narrowing art’s historical function and reach. However, this may be a good thing. For it is only when a discourse or practice is more heavily regulated, legislated, and controlled that it finds the need to question those same regulations, control mechanisms, and laws. The question, of course, is whether there will be any attempt by artists and the “art world” to resist this “censorship,” or if they will simply react by posting their sentiments on facebook.

More via The Art Newspaper here.


Mother of Daughter on Billboard Sues for Defamation

Remember the big fiasco over the anti-abortion ad in NYC? Apparently the mother of the six-year-old girl signed a model release allowing a photo stock agency to license out the image. Well, the mother was not too enthused when the image of her little girl was used for the anti-abortion ad, specifically targeting African-Americans.

As expected (albeit a tad delayed) the mother, Tricia Fraser, has filed suit against the anti-abortion organization Life Always, calling “the billboard racist and the use of Ms. Fraser’s daughter’s image defamatory.”

This should be interesting. I’m still hoping someone will forward me ( a copy of the release form (either a copy of the original or a copy of the one provided by the stock agency).

Via the Village Voice.


Egypt Court Jails Officials Over Van Gogh Theft

An Egyptian court on Thursday jailed five officials, including a former head of the state’s fine arts department, over the theft of a Van Gogh painting worth an estimated $55 million.

Via Reuters.


Removal of Mural Protected By First Amendment

A federal judge ruled Friday that Gov. Paul LePage did not violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment when he ordered a mural removed from the headquarters of the Maine Department of Labor. LePage ordered the mural’s removal last month, saying it offered a one-sided view of labor history that some business owners found offensive.

Central to Stern’s argument was a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2008 in a case involving Pleasant Grove City, Utah. … about whether the city could deny an obscure religion’s request to display a monument in a public park, while the city allowed the display of a monument about the Ten Commandments.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that monuments in public places should be recognized as the government’s own speech, and that decisions about their placement are exempt from the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

So, is a monument the same as a mural? In other words, the argument here is that when the general public sees a monument on public space, they believe it is the government that is doing the “speaking.” Similarly, under LePage’s ruling, when the general public sees this mural, they will believe it is also the government that is doing the “speaking” and not the artist. Is this true?

More via The Portland Press Herald.


FBI: Art Criminals Nothing But Mopes

The FBI’s Art Crime Team. Thirteen agents stationed across the United States to investigate everything from art counterfeiting to thefts of cultural objects. The Art Crime Unit was formed after the looting of Iraq’s national museum in 2003. Unlike Hollywood films of sexy and handsome art thieves, members of this unit cite that for the most part, art thieves and criminals are nothing but “mopes.”

Via Chicago Sun Times.


Giacometti Foundation: Intellectual Property Law Is Largely Ignored by the Art World

Interestingly — and to my knowledge– this story has received very little press.

Véronique Wiesinger, director of the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation in Paris, writes about The Giacometti Foundation’s (the majority holder of Alberto Giacometti’s copyright) refusal to grant John Baldessari permission to duplicate a sculpture by Giacometti for an installation called “The Giacometti Variations” commissioned by the Prada Foundation in Milan (allegedly, French artist Daniel Buren has fully supported this position). At the Giacometti Foundation’s request, the exhibition was shut down and the case is pending in a Court in Milan.

Not only is Wiesinger adamant  about the need for artists and arts institutions to respect copyright holders and artists’ copyrights, she fully supports the recent copyright spanking New York Judge Deborah Batts gave Richard Prince and Judge Denny Chins rejection of Google’s proposed settlement agreement with the Authors Guild of America.

Today intellectual property law is largely ignored by the art world. Museums commonly market unauthorized reproductions of copyrighted works from their collection. They exhibit “appropriation” artists’ works without ensuring that permissions of the “appropriated” authors have been secured. … The Cariou judgment reminds museums and dealers of their own liability. They can no longer hide behind the freedom of the appropriation artist, however famous he or she is.

Citing previous resolutions by the College Art Association and the Association of Art Museum Directors concerning the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property as well as guidelines concerning the unlawful appropriation of objects during the Nazi Era, Wiesinger pleads for a similar resolution concerning intellectual property, copyright, and fair use.

In 2011, it is time for museums, universities, and dealers to work with artists and estates to issue guidelines concerning uses of copyrighted artworks based on copyright law. This is the only way to avoid unnecessary litigation.

In this day and age of simulations, pretense, market forces, and political correctness, it takes cojones to take such a strong and well-argued position vis-a-vis cultural production — and more so when it’s done in writing. For pedagogical, conceptual, and aesthetic reasons, we are strong supporters of historic artists such as John Baldessari. However, we applaud The Giacommetti Foundation and Wiesinger for taking such a direct, strong, and critical stance regarding copyright and the current dismal state of artistic production.

Artinfo has Wiesinger’s entire article here.


10 Least Appropriate Easter Artworks

Artinfo’s list of 10 least appropriate Easter artworks. Banksy, Serrano, Kippenberger: a bit predictable, but hey, so is art these days.

Check it here.


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