Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dobrzynski on Deaccessioning: A Great Solution, an Impartial Arbitrator (UPDATE)

Judith Dobrzynski, a former reporter and editor at the NY Times, wrote yesterday on a very interesting alternative to the deaccessioning fight. In brief, she argues for an “impartial arbitrator,” which would hear a museum’s argument and need for deaccessioning art to pay the bills.

Maybe it’s best to amend the unwritten sales ban, but not end it. What if a museum had to argue its case for de-accessioning art before an impartial arbitrator? This neutral party would need to be schooled in art, art law and nonprofit regulations. [bold mine]

If done properly, this is actually the best solution put on the table so far, and to my delight (and self-serving position) something not too far from what I have argued on my Deaccessioning Blog.

THE squeeze is on. Museums everywhere are having trouble making ends meet, what with the overblown expansions they’ve made, the decline in investment income and the steep drop-off in contributions from foundations and individuals. Many have cut staff, frozen pay, trimmed exhibition schedules and slowed or stopped acquisitions. For some, that may not be enough: the American Folk Art Museum, to cite one example, recently admitted that it isn’t making debt payments.

Dobrzynski seems to be reigniting, in an academic and open town-hall-meeting of sorts, the deaccessioning debate started in early 2009 over the Rose Art Museum, and being the first in 2010 to realize that the museum economic disasters are intensifying and not-at-all decreasing. She sites others on her corner with similar thoughts.

What’s next? In some corners, there’s fear that museum officials will do what is absolutely forbidden by art-world rules: raise operating cash with a sale of artwork. Already some respected figures — David Gordon, former head of the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, for example — are saying that the rule against selling art for any purpose other than buying more art is wrong.

What do you think? Deaccessioning Arbitration and Regulation Panel (DARP)? That’s my vote! Good start for 2010. Judith’s article in its entirety here.

UPDATE: January 4, 2009

Judith has a few more thoughts on her op-ed on her blog, and here are my thoughts regarding lawyers as arbitrators.


Artist Faces Arrest and Prosecution Under Terrorism Act


The UK’s Metropolitan Police have warned Greek artist Xenofon Kavvadias that he may be arrested and prosecuted under the country’s Terrorism Act “if he mounts an exhibition featuring texts such as The Islamic Ruling on the Permissibility of Martyrdom Operations, a justification for suicide bombings used by Chechen extremists.” Via the Guardian.


WB Yeats and Freud (and more) Become Public Domain Today

Good news for those seeking to use copyrighted material (some at least). Today’s Telegraph has some interesting news concerning copyright and the public domain.  Expect some litigation over this.

Under European Union law all books, poems and paintings pass into the public domain 70 years after the death of their creator.

At midnight last night the works of artists and thinkers who died throughout 1939 slipped out of copyright, meaning they can be reprinted and posted on the internet without incurring royalties.

In addition to Yeats and Freud, the list includes Arthur Rackham, the illustrator whose drawings appeared in early versions of children’s books such as Peter Pan and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the novelist Ford Madox Ford, and Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt.

A selection of works by the artists will be available on Wikisource, a sister website of the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, from today.

Also according to the Telegraph, no “copyrights expired in the US today because of a 1998 copyright extension. The earliest that copyrights will begin to expire there will be 2019[.]“

James Boyle, Duke Law professor and founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, has great insights on public domain issues here.


What’s the Top Art Law Case of the Decade?

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What’s the top art law case of the decade, or the ’00s as it’s being called?

My vote is not really about a case per se, but more so for a legal issue: the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (“VARA”). Both the Chapman Kelley v. Chicago Park District and the Mass MoCA v. Büchel cases will be instrumental in establishing whether VARA is gutted of any legal force and therefore useless, or read with a clarity and therefore granting visual artists the moral rights originally intended by congress in 1990: the right of attribution and the right of integrity. The right of attribution generally consists of the right of an artist to be recognized by name as the author of his work or to publish anonymously or pseudonymously, the right to prevent the author’s work from being attributed to someone else, and to prevent the use of the author’s name on works created by others, including distorted editions of the author’s original work. The right of integrity allows the author to prevent any deforming or mutilating changes to his work, even after title in the work has been transferred.

Both cases are on appeal–the 7th and 1st Circuits respectively–and decisions to both are expected any minute now.

What’s your vote for the top art law case of the ’00s, and looking forward, what’s the top legal issue for visual artists? Let me know: I’m taking a poll and entering names into my digital hat. Winner gets lunch on me in NYC at my favorite Mexican food restaurant (and for you out-of-towners, this is good next time you’re in town).


9th Circuit Sets Aside Prior Nazi Theft Decision

This past September I blogged about a an interesting international law case in which Claude Cassirer sued Spain and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, located in Madrid, in 2005 to recover a Camille Pissarro impressionist painting. This week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco set aside the September ruling by three of its judges who said that Spain, which acquired the painting in 1993, can be sued even though the work was stolen by Germany. The case will be reheard by a larger panel of judges, the court said, without giving a reason for the decision. Via Artinfo.


Degas Work Stolen

One last theft before next year!

An Edgar Degas painting has been stolen from an exhibition in Marseille. According to French police, The Chorus, worth an estimated $1.15 million, was stolen overnight from the Cantini Museum. A security guard saw that it was missing early Thursday morning. Jacques Dallest, a prosecutor, said the painting appeared to have been unscrewed from the wall. The painting belongs to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, according to the French national museum authority, and was on loan for an exhibition featuring some 20 works by the artist.


Art Monthly’s Henry Lydiate on Chapman Kelley v Chicago Park District

Our dear friend, John Viramontes, directs us to another analysis of the Chapman Kelley vs. Chicago Park District case. The article, written by Art Monthly’s Henry Lydiate, primarily revolves around UK moral laws, and gives a great synopsis for those wanting a brief essay on this case.  John was very kind in obtaining permission from the author and journal for this article. You may read the article via pdf format here.


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