Sunday, October 4, 2015

NYCLU: New City Restrictions May Run Afoul of the First Amendment

The New York Civil Liberties Union has come out in support of New York City art vendors and urged the NY City Parks Dept to “reconsider its proposal to restrict the number and location of vendors at several city parks on the grounds that the City has not made enough information public to allow for a determination of if the proposed rules run afoul of the First Amendment.”

“Parks have historically been recognized as vitally important for social, artistic and political expression,” said NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg. “The Parks Department should make every effort to accommodate our city’s artists, poets and authors. It must withdraw its proposal until it can publicly demonstrate it is meeting its First Amendment obligations.”

In a letter sent Friday afternoon to Alessandro G. Olivieri, general counsel to the Department of Parks & Recreation, Eisenberg and NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman outlined three concerns regarding the proposed vendor restrictions:

  • That the Parks Department has “failed utterly” to make public data demonstrating that its proposal is reasonable and leaves open ample alternatives;
  • That a first-come, first-served system for getting vendor space runs the risk that a few vendors and their agents will obtain more than their fare share of sites for more than their fair share of time;
  • And that any restrictions placed should be tailored to their communities as the residents of Greenwich Village, where Union Square Park is located, “can tolerate a level of disorder and energy” that residents near Central Park may object to.

NYCLU’s letter can be read here (PDF format).  ARTIST president Robert Lederman, who is leading the protest campaign to inform the public of their position against the new City Park restrictions, commented, “Needless to say, when the #1 advocacy group for First Amendment rights comes out against the Parks Department and for our side, it is a very good development!” Lederman has also commented on media bias against art vendors.


NY City Art Vendor Protest “Messy Reality of Free Speech”

Last week we reported on the planned protest by NY City art vendors group, ARTIST, concerning the NYC Department of Parks’ proposal of new rules for street artists who display or sell art in NYC Parks.

Robert Lederman has told Clancco that media coverage of the protest was not only biased against ARTIST and art vendor protesters, but also unfairly characterized the protest.  Lederman:

Read the rest of this entry »


Fresno Museum Won’t Sell Rare Ansel Adams Prints

The bankrupt (and closed) Fresno Metropolitan Museum has agreed to return six Ansel Adams photographs to Adams’ son, who had objected to them being sold to pay off Museum creditors. In exchange, the Adams family agreed to give other prints to the Museum for auctioning. The museum closed in January after going into $4 million debt.


Jack Tilton Dragged Into Zwirner vs. Collector Dispute

Via The Art Newspaper:

The ongoing case between the Miami art collector, Craig Robins, and the New York dealer, David Zwirner, over an alleged breach of confidentiality has brought a third dealer into the fray. Jack Tilton, who represented the South African artist Marlene Dumas until 2008, was subpoenaed to appear in court yesterday[.]


Lawyers Acquitted of Conspiracy Over da Vinci Masterpiece

Three lawyers have been acquitted in an alleged conspiracy attempt concerning a $6.5 million ransom sought from one of the United Kingdom’s richest peers, in exchange for the return of a stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece valued at perhaps $75 million. Via The Guardian.


Supreme Court: Depiction of Animal Cruelty Constitutional

Today, the US Supreme Court handed down the correct decision concerning free speech and the depiction of animal cruelty. The case, United States v. Stevens, involved a challenge to a federal law that prohibited the sale or possession for “commercial gain” of material that depicts living animals being “intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed.” The Court declared the statute unconstitutional on the grounds that it was overbroad. Justice Alito was the lone dissenter. Chief Justice Roberts seemed to suggest that a law limited to “crush” videos instead would pass muster.

You may remember that this was the case where UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh (The Volokh Conspiracy) and two other lawyers wrote a “friend of the court brief” (“amicus”) on behalf of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the College Art Association. The amicus focuses in part on “avant-garde and conceptual art,” Duchamp, Herman Nitsch, and Wim Delvoye’s tattooed pigs. You can access the amicus via an earlier post I wrote, here.

BBC coverage here; NPR here; Chicago Tribune here;  LA Times here; Thomas Jefferson Center here.


Chuck Close Joins Fight Against Polaroid Photo Sale


Readers may remember that Polaroid filed for bankruptcy twice in the past decade, most recently in 2008 in connection with a Ponzi scheme at parent company Petters Group Worldwide. The Polaroid name and assets—not including the photography collection—were acquired by a private equity firm and a liquidator for $88m in 2009. The photography collection remained behind with the defunct Polaroid Corporation, renamed PBE, and is now in the hands of PBE’s liquidators.

According to The Art Newspaper, Chuck Close has agreed to become a plaintiff in this case, hoping to stop the sale of works from the Polaroid Collection, which numbers around 16,000 works according to court papers filed in Minnesota in 2009. An auction of around 1,200 of these is scheduled to take place at Sotheby’s on June 20th and 21st in New York. Close told The Art Newspaper, “These were not Polaroid’s works to sell. [...] I gave my best work to the collection because it was made clear that it was going to stay together and be given to a museum.”

Former Magistrate Judge Sam Joyner has taken charge in trying to persuade artists in this Polaroid Collection to voice their concerns and become fellow plaintiffs. Joyner has written a concise analysis of this case outlining the relevant facts, substantive legal issues and procedural issues (Note: the analysis is from September of 2009). For background to this story, here’s my post from April 2009.


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