Sunday, June 17, 2018

Roberta Smith: “MASS MoCA A Depressing Spectacle”

As is well known by now Roberta Smith, art critic for the New York Times, weighed in on the MASS MoCA v. Christoph Buchel lawsuit in last week’s New York Times “Arts and Leisure” Section. A quick update: Smith believes that MASS MoCA and Joe Thompson stepped way out of line when they disregarded Buchel’s request that his work not be installed and shown without his permission. In effect, Smith summarized Thompson’s grandstanding as such: “When a museum behaves badly, it’s never pretty. But few examples top the depressing spectacle at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.” Our guess–Thompson is looking for a new job!


McMullen Museum of Art Claims Fair Use of Pollock Images

Donn Zaretsky and Steven Levitt reported yesterday that The Pollock Krasner Foundation in New York, whose mission is to safeguard the legacy of Jackson Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner, refused six months ago to allow the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College to reproduce authentic Pollocks alongside the newly discovered works.

But the exhibition’s catalog — released only last Saturday afternoon — reproduced a handful of authentic Pollocks against the foundation’s wishes. “We were shocked to find that the museum had published copyrighted images in their catalog,” Ronald Spencer, attorney for the foundation, said Thursday.

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“I think it’s still art and still belongs to Buchel” —MASS MoCA Curator

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Sagging Jeans and Prison Time

Today’s New York Times Fashion & Style section contains an interesting story concerning baggy and sagging jeans and how they can land the person wearing them, i.e. the trendsetter, in jail.

Citing indecency laws, the state of Louisiana has passed ordinances where “the style” carries a fine of as much as $500 or up to a six-month sentence. The NY Times adds that in the West Ward of Trenton, Councilwoman Annette Lartigue is drafting an ordinance to fine or enforce community service in response to what she sees as the problem of exposing private parts in public.

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UPDATE: Judge Denies MASS MoCA’s Request To Keep Artists From Making Art

On Friday, August 17, 2007, a Massachusetts Magistrate Judge denied MASS MoCA’s request to keep litigation documents confidential and from public view. Aside from very limited set of documents, the Magistrate Judge ruled that nothing is to be kept confidential. Büchel submitted his opposition to MASS MoCA’s request for an emergency motion for protective order on Thursday, arguing that MASS MoCA’s request would violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by not allowing either party or the public to disclose and discuss tesimony given or documents produced during litigation.


MASS MoCA: Training Ground for Confidentiality

On Tuesday, August 14, 2007, MASS MoCA’s counsel, Skadden Arps, filed an Read the rest of this entry »


Understanding MASS MoCA’s Actions

Recent emails and comments on art blogs seem to indicate a general misunderstanding regarding the MASS MoCA v. Büchel lawsuit. A short clarification is in order.

The main misdiagnosis that must be addressed is the continued misunderstanding which looks at this debate in terms of who was at fault or the claim that the museum “owns what it buys.” These flawed arguments miss the point not by inches, but by miles. Artists, art critics, and art bloggers must understand that the social and professional discourses which dictate and mitigate artistic production and artworld interactions do not necessarily apply within the larger judicial and legal frameworks. In this case omnipresent legal protections for an artist–which are automatically available and triggered–trump affective and social interrelations.

In order to address the blind argument relying on “fault,” the first fact that must be understood is that there was no written agreement between the museum and Büchel, which clearly indicates the availability of a legal structure in which this fiasco could have been avoided. Simply put, what MASS MoCA and Mr. Thompson should have done to protect their monetary investment is what any first year law student learns during the first week of law school. That is, draft an agreement. This is especially true when one of the parties (in this case the museum) is in a higher position of power and in a position to know better. The fact that they didn’t do so, and knew, or should have known, will most likely favor Büchel. (Incidentally, other options available to MASS MoCA are those also known to any first year law student under contract law, such as the doctrines of implied in-fact or implied in-law contract, unjust enrichment, and unconscionability.)

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