Sunday, April 20, 2014

Prosecutors Drop 14 Against Shepard Fairey

Finding that proving 14 vandalism charges against Shepard Fairey would be near impossible, Suffolk County prosecutors decided to drop these charges filed in Roxbury District Court last March.

Fairey, who lives in Los Angeles, still faces 13 similar charges in other city courts, including an allegation that he posted graffiti on an electrical box in Allston in 2000. Police officers caught him in the act, according to the prosecutor’s office.

However, he’s not out of the criminal woods yet. Neighbors around Mission Hill and the Back Bay said they are hopeful authorities will still prosecute Fairey on some of the remaining charges.

More from the still breathing Boston Globe.


National Gallery of Art Profits From Fraudulent Transaction

The National Gallery of Art has made out like bandits in a recent legal dispute.

According to ArtInfo:

In June 1981, court documents show, Canadian Jolles Shefner found herself in Paris, where she purchased Le boeuf (Piece of Beef), one of a series of 10 butcher-shop paintings by expressionist Chaim Soutine, for $68,000. She had the painting wrapped to go, and it was shipped to her home in Montreal, where it hung in the living room until the spring of 2004.

Like any good hanging beef, the Soutine work became more valuable as it aged. In May 2004, Shefner sold it for $1 million — and half a year later, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., bought the painting for $2 million.

Shefner’s heirs claim that after Shefner passed away in 2007, they discovered that she’d been taken advantage of and sued the middlemen in the transaction, as well as the National Gallery of Art, for what amounts to fraud.

The Soutine experts, Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow, were involved in the purchase of the painting from Shefner and the sale to the NGA. They have agreed to pay $210,000 to settle the suit in a complex deal that will send the painting back to the Shefner heirs and provide a small profit to the NGA.

For its part, the NGA seems to get out of the deal with nothing lost except for what might have been a bargain on the painting. Besides the cash from Tuchman and Dunow, the museum will receive from Ariela Braun and her brother Barry Shefner $1,325,000 in cash and a seven-year, interest-bearing promissory note for $650,000. Together, all three payments total $2,185,000, which seems to compensate the NGA for the original payment plus the time and legal bother of defending the suit.

A NGA spokesperson stated that although this is a (rare) deaccession, it will be profitable.


L.A. Muralist Sues Caltrans

Frank Romero, a noted muralist and pioneering Chicano painter, is suing Caltrans for painting over a mural he created along the Hollywood Freeway downtown in conjunction with the 1984 Olympics.

Romero’s suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, contends that sometime after June 1, 2007, a Caltrans work crew painted over his 102-foot-long, 20-foot-high mural, “Going to the Olympics,” erasing it from a wall at Alameda Street. The episode took place, the suit says, without Romero having been given the advance notice required under a 1980 state law protecting artists’ “moral rights.” The notice provides 90 days for the artist to save or relocate works of public art before a building’s owner can have them removed.

More from the L.A. Times.


What Sonia Sotomayor Means to Cultural Production and Intellectual Property

Last week Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to The U.S. Supreme Court. Although unfortunate that Mr. Obama draped such a momentous event in the pernicious cloak of identity politics, a Sotomayor confirmation could bring dramatic changes to the reading and application of cyberlaw and intellectual property law.

Although her early career as a corporate lawyer prosecuting trademark infringers for Fendi would lead one to believe she is pro property and copyright owners, and thus pro-original author, at least one of her most important copyright rulings shows an inclination to read into federal statutes in complete disregard of the literalness of the text, and at the expense of property owners and original authors’ rights. This is a concern not only for the intellectual property and cyberlaw conflicts she is sure to face if confirmed to the Supreme Court, but also because this tendency to “read into” texts may very well rear its head in other legal issues of grave concern. Let’s take a look into one case the clearly demonstrates this concern.

Read the rest of this entry »


We Sold Our Soul for Trademark Law


Ozzy Osbourne has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office against his former Black Sabbath bandmate, Tony Iommi, claiming Iommi illegally assumed sole ownership of the Black Sabbath name. According to the New York Post, Osbourne’s suit seeks a 50 percent stake in the “Black Sabbath” trademark. Osbourne further contends that Osbourne is entitled to a portion of the profits Iommi has generated through use of the band name, and suggests it was Osbourne’s “signature lead vocals” that helped propel the band’s “extraordinary success.”

Rolling Stone has more here.


Michelangelo and the Politics of Mediocrity


A few minutes after blogging about fakes, frauds, and forgeries, this story hot off the press. According to The Independent, Italians are squabbling over a presumed Michelangelo sculpture that may just be…a fake!

At the beginning of the year, the Italian government paid around €3.25m for a 16-inch-high wooden sculpture, Cristo Ritrovato, purchased by an Italian antiques dealer some 20 years ago on the hunch that it might be a youthful work by Michelangelo. The work is now the star attraction in a Naples exhibition devoted to early work by the artist – indeed, it is the exhibition’s poster boy, featuring on publicity for the show as a rediscovered work of genius. And that fact has irritated several academics and specialists who argue that it isn’t a Michelangelo at all, but actually a bit of political spin, intended to improve the government’s image with conservative voters.


Why Do People Believe In Imaginary Returns, Frauds and Fakes?

For those interested in forgeries and art, Errol Morris is writing “Bamboozling Ourselves,” a seven-part installment based on two books, published last year, on the genius art forger Han van Meegeren. He writes:

Why do people believe in imaginary returns, frauds and fakes? Bernard Madoff, A.I.G. , W.M.D.’s … How did this happen? Do we believe things because it is in our self-interest? Or is it because we can be manipulated by others? And, if so, under what circumstances?

To be sure, the Van Meegeren story raises many, many questions. Among them: what makes a work of art great? Is it the signature of (or attribution to) an acknowledged master? Is it just a name? Or is it a name implying a provenance? With a photograph we may be interested in the photographer but also in what the photograph is of. With a painting this is often turned around, we may be interested in what the painting is of, but we are primarily interested in the question: who made it? Who held a brush to canvas and painted it? Whether it is the work of an acclaimed master like Vermeer or a duplicitous forger like Van Meegeren — we want to know more.

Part two, an interview with Edward Dolnick, the author of “The Forger’s Spell,” is also available now.


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