Saturday, February 28, 2015

Real Murder in National Portrait Gallery Made Public

The first detailed account of a real murder in the gallery, over an apparent artistic disagreement which happened in full view of staff and visitors, has been published by the UK’s National Portrait Gallery in their Archive Catalogue. A letter written by then-director James Milner two days after the 1909 tragedy tells how staff had to wash bloodstains from the floor after a “well-dressed elderly man” shot his wife and then himself in the head. The couple, from America, were said to have “gesticulated excitedly” while looking at one of the pictures before the man reportedly drew his revolver and, “placing the muzzle close to the woman’s head, fired”, before turning the weapon on himself. Via The Independent.


Art Crime Losses May Total $8 billion Per Year

Since the inception of the FBI’s Art Crime Unit in 2004, more than 2,400 objects of cultural property valued at more than $142 million have been recovered. According to the FBI, a number of art criminals have been sent to jail, and many of the recovered items have been returned or repatriated.

Even so, said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, who manages our Art Theft Program, “We are seeing an increase in these types of crimes,” with losses in art and cultural property crimes  estimated at $8 billion per year.


Family Art Cons Fool Major Museums

A very talented forger who created fake masterpieces in his home and then sold them to museums and art collectors, including the British Museum, the Tate Modern, and Christie’s, with the help of his elderly parents, was sentenced to four years and eight months last night. His mother, Olive Greenhalgh, 83, was given a 12-month suspended sentence and his wheelchair-bound father, George, 84 – is still to be sentenced for his involvement. Via The Manchester Evening News.


Case Claiming MoMA Paintings Nazi Loot Dismissed

A judge in New York has dismissed a “Nazi loot” case by the heirs of George Grosz, who claimed that three paintings by Grosz now in the MoMA collection were taken and traded during the 1930s.


Büchel Wins Appeal, Major Victory for Artists

On Wednesday, January 27, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit handed Christoph Büchel and visual artists a major victory. The First Circuit found sufficient evidence to allow a jury to find that Mass MoCA violated Büchel’s right of artistic integrity by modifying his installation without his consent, thereby causing prejudice to Büchel’s honor or reputation. In making this finding, the First Circuit concluded that the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 applies to unfinished works of art.

But that’s not all. The First Circuit found that Büchel has a viable claim under the Copyright Act, finding significant evidence suggesting that Büchel’s art work was repeatedly and deliberately exhibited to numerous individuals without Büchel’s consent. The First Circuit also rejected Mass MoCA’s contention that the unfinished installation might constitute a joint work of Büchel and the Museum.

The New York TimesRandy Kennedy.


Court’s Function Is Not to Tell Scholars What to Authenticate

Ray Dowd, of the Copyright Litigation Blog, comments on a recent lawsuit against the Calder Foundation. In that case, “[t]he plaintiff owned a work it believed was created by the late Alexander Calder…. The plaintiff sued because the Calder Foundation refused to include the work in the artist’s catalogue raisonne.” The plaintiff lost, primarily because “the court found that it did not have the power to declare the purported Calder work authentic nor to order the Calder Foundation to include it in the catalogue raisonne.” Adds Dowd,

Foundations vary greatly in practices, market power, and credibility.  There is no disputing that for certain artists, the foundations act in dictatorial and inappropriate ways, leveraging the artist’s power far beyond what copyright law contemplates.

Read Dowd’s analysis here.


Shepard Fairey to Face Criminal Investigation in AP Case

We mentioned something like this could happen to Shepard Fairey, and well, it seems like it has. Federal district judge Alvin K. Hellerstein revealed today that artist Shepard Fairey is facing a criminal investigation in connection with his admitted unlawful conduct of “submitt[ing] false images and delet[ing] other images” in the ongoing litigation against the Associated Press.

The judge reportedly made the revelation today as part of a hearing where lawyers for Fairey and the AP were present. A spokesman for the AP said in a statement issued this evening that the news organization has received a grand jury subpoena related to Fairey’s fabrication and destruction of evidence during the case.

A spokesman for the Associated Press told Clancco that they are very pleased that Judge Hellerstein has denied Shepard Fairey’s motion for a protective order to stay Mr. Fairey’s deposition, or alternatively to limit the scope of Mr. Fairey’s deposition, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation regarding his admitted wrongdoing in this case. The Court also ruled that Mr. Fairey’s credibility is a key issue in this case.

To what extent will this affect the merits of the “fair use” argument is unknown.

See also the LA Times.


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