Saturday, 29 January 2011
Egyptian Museum Safe (for now)
The Egyptian Museum houses a variety of priceless works of art, including the contents of the tomb of King Tutankhamen. The gold death mask is one of the most spectacular and famous pieces.
It is unclear how many of the works are in the museum at the present time as reports suggest that a large number of treasures are currently on tour around the States, nevertheless, the quality and historical significance of the art stored in the museum cannot be underestimated.
Unfortunately, the museum is practically next door to the National Democratic Party building which has been the focus of a lot of the fighting in Cairo.
There were a variety of both alarming and reassuring reports yesterday. The Guardian suggested that the fire at the NDP headquarters might spread to the Museum. Meanwhile, Euronews reported that thousands of protestors had formed a human chain around the Museum to prevent its being looted.
Reuters finally reported that the army had secured the Museum late last night. It appears to be safe for now, and more importantly, the protestors appear to be extremely conscious of avoiding the fate of the Iraq museum. We can only hope that this respect for the past continues.
UPDATE - Saturday
So, it looks like I wrote too soon…
Reports are still a little confused but it appears that at least two mummies were destroyed during the anti-government protests before the army moved in to secure the museum. There have also been images of broken glass display cases and artefacts on blogs such as HyperAllergic.
According to Al Jazeera, Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said looters ripped the heads off two mummies and cleared out the museum gift shop. However, in large part thanks to the actions of Egyptian citizens forming a protective human shield around the museum, the damage has been fairly limited and there have been no reports of any successful theft from the museum.
Mr Hawass confirmed that the museum's prized King Tutankhamun exhibit, which includes the boy pharaoh's gold death mask, had not been damaged and was safe. However, he also noted that the museum's contents could still damaged by the potential collapse of a neighbouring building that was gutted by fire.
Ironically, a couple of weeks ago Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Vice Minister of Culture, grabbed headlines around the world after he claimed that the Central Park Conservancy and Mayor of New York City have not made adequate efforts to conserve Cleopatra's Needle.
UPDATE - Sunday
Sadly, there are now reports of looting at the Egyptian Museum. Somewhat depressingly the former director of the Egyptian Museum, Wafaa el-Saddik (pictured below) has said, in a widely reported interview for Zeit Online (in German only), that the individuals responsible for the museum’s looting included its guards.
On the bright side, it looks as though the fire at headquarters has now been extinguished and no longer poses a threat to the museum.
Other parts of Egypt have not been so lucky. The Memphis Museum has apparently been completely ransacked.
UPDATE - Tuesday
There are now reports from Reuters of Molotov cocktails being thrown in the vicinity of the museum some of which landed in the Museum's gardens. It does not appear that the Museum itself has been hit but the risk of fire spreading to the museum increased as a result. Reuters has reported that the army has moved in to extinguish the flames and prevent the fire spreading.
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Banned Zimbabwean Artist’s Work Uncovered
In March 2009, Zimbabwean artist Owen Maseko had an exhibition at the National Gallery in Bulawayo. Many artists are nervous before their works are shown to the public but Maseko had more reason to be anxious than most. His work was an outspoken critique of the 1980s period known as the Gukurahundi, when forces associated with Mugabe committed widespread atrocities. According to ArtInfo, the authorities shut the exhibition down the following day on the basis that it would provoke inter-tribal strife. Furthermore, both Maseko and Voti Thebi, the gallery’s Director, were taken to prison in leg shackles.
According to the Web site of Sokwanele, an underground pro-democracy movement in Zimbabwe, Maseko was initially charged with violating a prohibition on anything that "insults or undermines the authority of the President," as well as "causing offense to persons of a particular race, religion, etc." Under Zimbabwean law, these charges warrant a fine or a prison sentence of up to a year. However, the Government later attempted to substitute the charges with “violating a ban on publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State." This offence carries up to 20 years of prison time.
Maseko's lawyer successfully argued against this greater sentence, however, Maseko’s art remains banned, and the art from his exhibition is still retained by the authorities as potential evidence against him.
Maseko's Gukurahundi exhibition includes graffiti and installation elements as well as paintings. Slogans scrawled on the walls proclaim such sentiments as "A weak community is a politically compliant one," and "Patterns of resilience and support need to be facilitated...." The show also included several dummies strewn around the space, apparently representing victims of the atrocities. The paintings depict faceless silhouettes many of whom are fleeing in terror. In amongst all this fear threads the sinister caricature of a figure in over-sized glasses: Mugabe.
Maseko's personal website explained his philosophy as an artist: "Being an artist is about being brave and using art to challenge attitudes … People in Zimbabwe are waiting for change, but we as Zimbabweans are the change." He has been and continues to be extremely brave. It is now up to us to view and understand his art and not allow it to be swept under the carpet.
Art Info has an online gallery of seven photos from the exhibition which is available here: and there is a wider gallery of photos on Flickr.
Sources: Art Info and Sokwanele
Art's Cold War Continues
The case relates to an archive of 12,000 books and manuscripts and 50,000 other documents collected by the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, which was seized by the Nazis, and subsequently claimed by Soviet during World War II. After apparently exhausting all diplomatic avenues, in December 2008, the Brooklyn-based Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement filed suit against Russia claiming ownership of the archive. In a ruling in August 2010, the US court confirmed that the Russian government must return the archive to Chabad-Lubavitch. However, Russia did not accept the judgment as valid, insisting that the collection is part of its state archive, and, in any case, claiming that the US district court does not have jurisdiction over the matter. Therefore, following the court's judgment, Russia declared that it would not send any art exhibitions to the US until the dispute over was satisfactorily resolved.
On 20 January 2011, Russia's Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev confirmed that the ban remains in place, stating:
"We stopped sending exhibitions to the United States in August (because) one American organisation made a completely illegitimate claim on this collection of books."It seems that the main reason for the ban is that Moscow fears the US authorities will seize any Russian art coming into the country and hold it as security in exchange for return of the archive.
This dispute is damaging to all sides of the argument, but particularly to both the US and the Russia art markets. Since Russia refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the US court, it appears it is up to the diplomats to find a solution. Not really a promising state of affairs. After all it took them 40+ years to resolve the actual cold war.
Source: AFP, 20 January 2011
Monday, 24 January 2011
World's First Online Art Fair
Taking place at vipartfair.com, the VIP Art Fair aims to give contemporary art collectors access to artworks by critically acclaimed artists and the ability to connect one-on-one with internationally renowned dealers—from anywhere in the world and without leaving home.
Most of the details, including how to register to browse the art (which is free) can be found here. Glaringly omitted, at least at the registration stage, are the terms and conditions of sale. Indeed, according to this report, Noah Horowitz, the director of the VIP Art Fair has said that: "Exactly how transactions are conducted at the point of sale are entirely in the hands of buyer and seller; VIP simply helps to connect one party to the other....This means that purchases could happen without either side meeting each other in person or without the buyer seeing the actual work in the flesh prior to purchase." In other words, VIP is not offering an art auction type service, a la eBay or Christie's Live - but merely a forum, much like the London Art Fair, except that it is a virtual venue.
Source: DNAInfo.com, 21 January 2011
Senior Curator Praised as Stolen Paintings are Returned to Kelvingrove Gallery
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Rubens Causes More Controversy as Artwork Owned by A Victim of the Nazis to Remain in Britain
Following on from my earlier post, it seems that Rubens was causing a stir before Christmas too.
His work entitled The Coronation of the Virgin, an oil sketch measuring 46cm x 61.4cm, was painted in or around 1613. While the painting is one of Rubens's lesser known works, it is considered important as it is part of a group of oil sketches by the German-born artist made in preparation for a series of larger paintings that decorated the ceiling of a Jesuit church in Antwerp destroyed by fire in the 18th century.
15 December 2010, after dispute between the Courtauld Institute and the family of its original owner, Parliament's Spoliation Advisory Panel ruled in favour of Courtauld Institute and as a result the historically important painting of the Virgin Mary stay in Britain. The full report of the Panel can be found here. Last year another painting formerly owned by the Jewish banker, Hans Makart's The Death of Pappenheim, was returned to the same family by a decision of Vienna Municipal Council.
The Spoliation Advisory Panel, chaired by Sir David Hirst, was established in February 2000 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as an advisory non-departmental public body (NDPB) to help resolve claims for cultural property looted during the Nazi era. On 12 April 2010 the Panel was dissolved as an advisory NDPB and reconstituted as a group of expert advisers which continues under the name 'Spoliation Advisory Panel'. Sir David Hirst continues to be chairman, the Panel's membership remains as before and the Panel remains the advisory body designated by the Secretary of State under Section 3 of the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009.
The Panel resolves claims from people, or their heirs, who lost property during the Nazi era, which is now held in UK national collections. The Panel is appointed by the Secretary of State. It considers both legal and non-legal obligations, such as the moral strength of the claimant’s case, and whether any moral obligation rests on the holding institution.
The painting came to Britain after it was acquired at auction at Sotheby's by a noted collector, Count Antoine Seilern, who bequeathed it to the Courtauld Institute in 1978. The painting’s original owner was Jewish Banker Herbert Gutmann, the Director of the Dresdner bank until 1931 and son its founder. Gutmann himself was a collector of Islamic, European and decorative arts. After his father died he was appointed the director of Dresdner Bank until 1931 when he stepped down in the wake of the German banking crisis. Having sold his art collection in Berlin in April 1934, he fled Nazi Germany for the UK in October 1936. He died here six years later. His brother and his wife, who remained in Germany, were murdered by the Nazis. Gutmann's remaining assets were seized by the Nazis in 1940.
Gutmann, described by a propaganda poster as a "profiteer and a Jewish manipulator" was feared by Hitler as someone, along with his contemporaries, who might support a coup against him. Indeed in 1934, together with other members of centrist and right-wing parties, several of Gutmann's contemporaries were murdered on the orders of Hitler. Gutmann’s descendants maintained that he was forced to sell the painting in haste before the Nazis seized the collection and because he was forced to flee Nazi Germany and as such the Courtauld was obliged to return the work.
Central to the row over ownership was whether Gutmann had been forced to sell the painting because of antisemitism. The panel heard evidence that Dresdner Bank became "Nazified" and was encouraged to persecute Jewish employees. The panel report notes: "While there is no documentary record of Gutmann having owed any money to the Dresdner Bank before 1933, documents start recording money owed by Gutmann from this point onwards, beginning with a debt, reported in July 1933, of 200,000 reichsmarks owed to a Dresdner Bank share syndicate set up in 1927, in which Gutmann was a participant."
The panel also heard Gutmann’s wealth was eroded after unsuccessful investments in Egyptian cotton and that Gutmann sold his art collection as a “cold financial calculation” because of these financial losses, rather than due to anti-Semitism. The panel agreed with his and saw no grounds for criticism of the Courtauld. In their final conclusion considered the moral strength of the Claimants’ case insufficient to warrant a recommendation that The Coronation of the Virgin should be transferred to them or that an ex gratia payment should be made to them.
Original Source: http://www.culture.gov.uk and http://www.guardian.co.uk
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Banksy Bail Identity Crisis
However, whilst anonymity may a good thing from an artistic and personal perspective, it has its drawbacks, particularly if you want to intervene in Russian court proceedings.
As Simone published previously, Banksy has been following the fate of the Moscow based Voina art collective. Two of their members Oleg Vorotnikov, 35, and Leonid Nikolayev, 27 have been in prison since November 2010 after Palace Revolution, a piece of performance art in the centre of St. Petersburg, was considered to be more criminal than artistic. The performance art in question involved turning over police cars in an anti-corruption protest which police claim caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.
Banksy organised an online fundraiser which raised the required bail money (approximately £80,000) but last Friday, a judge refused to accept the money due to a "lack of information about the person providing the money." The two Voina artists’ fate remains unclear. Even if bail is granted, they are facing up to seven years in prison, in what appear to be less than savoury conditions. A response which Russian art community has denounced as excessive.
Previous Voina performances have included throwing cats at McDonald’s workers to alleviate their boredom, staging an orgy in a Moscow museum and painting a giant cock on a bridge in St Petersburg (not to be confused with the blue cock which will be coming to Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth in the near future)…
Sources: Art Info and The Guardian
Woman in Sombre Travelling Cloak Detained in the UK
Friday, 14 January 2011
Scratching the surface of London -- with stolen material
" ... one of the artists enters a newsagents' to purchase some chocolate, while the other pilfers that night's attention-grabbing headline outside. “We have been stealing the Evening Standard [bills] and other newspapers for the last six years,” George said.
It means they have titles for the next series of works even before these are created: including Arrested, Attack, Baby, Bomb, Caged, Gay and Murder. Gilbert said: “There is nothing pleasant. But that's not our fault. We are scratching the surface of London."”While it is not apparent whether the postcards are also stolen, their reproduction in the book of the exhibition inevitably raises questions of copyright too. Some of the postcards -- those which consist of sex advertisements which are becoming less ubiquitous now that public telephone boxes are giving way to handheld telephonic devices -- may not even be entitled to copyright protection in the fullest sense, if British courts revert to old case law on the subject which has never been formally overruled.
Would a court grant equitable relief to protect from copyright infringement (or any other wrong) a piece of artwork which consisted of stolen material, we wonder.
Source: "It’s a steal! Gilbert & George nick Standard posters for art’s sake", London Evening Standard, 12 January 2011
Thursday, 13 January 2011
Obama Copyright Dispute Settled
A joint statement released today, which helpfully summarises both sides of the dispute as well as the terms of the settlement (minus financial details aka the juicy bits), advised that:
“The Associated Press, Shepard Fairey and Mr. Fairey’s companies Obey Giant Art, Inc., Obey Giant LLC, and Studio Number One, Inc., have agreed in principle to settle their pending copyright infringement lawsuit over rights in the Obama Hope poster and related merchandise.
Mr. Fairey used an AP portrait photograph of Mr. Obama in making the Hope poster. Mr. Fairey did not license the photograph from the AP before using it. The AP contended that Mr. Fairey copied all of the original, creative expression in the AP’s photograph without crediting or compensating the AP, and that Mr. Fairey’s unlicensed use of the photograph was not a fair use. Mr. Fairey claimed that he did not appropriate any copyrightable material from the AP’s photo, and that, in any event, his use of the photograph constituted a fair use under copyright law.
In settling the lawsuit, the AP and Mr. Fairey have agreed that neither side surrenders its view of the law. Mr. Fairey has agreed that he will not use another AP photo in his work without obtaining a license from the AP. The two sides have also agreed to work together going forward with the Hope image and share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the Hope image and to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs. The parties have agreed to additional financial terms that will remain confidential.”
It also notes that the AP's copyright infringement lawsuit against Obey Clothing, the marketer of apparel with the Hope image, remains ongoing. So, the fight over this iconic piece of art is not all over yet.
Source: Wired, 12 January 2011 & Associated Press
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
“BRAIN STORM - investigating the brain through art & science” is described as an “exhibition in which seven contemporary artists consider the human brain: the physical entity described by science, the seat of the mind and soul, and origin of the creative impulse”. The press release further explains that:
“Their works are shown alongside a film of a Neuropathologist performing a "brain cut up." For the viewer, this juxtaposition is the starting point for a dialogue between how we see the brain and understand its functions scientifically and what happens when this physical organ that produces our individual visual and creative understanding becomes the subject for the artist.”
“The inspiration for Brainstorm was an invitation earlier this year by Dr David Dexter, Reader in Neuropharmacology and Scientific Director Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank, Centre for Neuroscience, Imperial College, London, for GV Art to observe a brain cut up. And, on 17 November, curator Robert Devcic and artists Katharine Dowson and David Marron spent more than two hours observing a braincut up at the Joint MS Society and Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank at Imperial College, London. Some of the works in this exhibition were made in direct response to this experience.”
“The gallery hopes to have the actual brain and brain slices involved at that event on display in coming weeks. GV Art is the only private gallery in the country to hold a Human Tissue Authority Licence for Public Display and Storage”
It is reported that there have been protests over the work, with critics saying that the exhibit pushes the boundaries of decency in the name of art and that the public display of human body parts is “degrading”. In this respect, however, the only opponent cited is a Conservative MP, David Amess, who is a former member of the health select committee, who stated: “It's one thing if this is done in a laboratory, but it's degrading to put body parts on display in a public place. In my personal opinion, this is a disrespectful way to treat the human body and is unacceptable.”
It is not the first time that parts of a human body have gone on show in the name of art. This is not to say that there are not strict rules governing the public display or storage of any human tissue from a dead person.
The Human Tissue Act (“Act”), which came into force on the 1st September 2006 and is governed by the Human Tissue Authority (“HTA”), provides a framework for the regulation of storage and use of human tissue from the living, and the removal, storage and use of tissue and organs from the deceased for specified purposes. At the heart of the Act is the requirement that consent be obtained for the removal, storage and use of any relevant material which has come from a human body for certain Scheduled Purposes. These purposes include public display. The Act does not define 'public display', but the HTA Guidance provides that it will regard a public display as: “An exhibition, show or display in which a body of a deceased person or relevant material which has come from the body of a deceased person is used for the purpose of being exposed to view by the public.”
A key principle on which the Act is based is that all human bodies, body parts and tissue within the Act’s scope should be treated with appropriate respect and dignity. This principle applies to the public display of a body or tissue from a deceased person, and the guidance’s proposals complement those within the European Union Tissues and Cells Directive (EUTCD). The Act is also complemented by DCMS' Guidance for the care of Human Remains in Museums, which deals with the curating, care and use of human remains and rests on the same principle. In order to regulate this principle, the Act also makes it a requirement that all organisations that either use or store human tissue must be licensed to carry out specific activities. The HTA is responsible for issuing the licences.
As we have seen, GV Art holds one such licence. Accordingly, it may be inferred that that this exhibition does not fall foul of the requirements of the Act and that it has been concluded that the brain is being treated with sufficient dignity and respect.
It is currently showing at GV Art until 22 January 2011.
Monday, 10 January 2011
Brazil's new President: feminist or figurine?
|Harmless fun, or a possible|
"The creation of a Dilma Rousseff doll comes exclusively from the indisputable, historical fact that the actual president is visually interesting as inspiration for the type of art I do. That is all".What the President, a noted feminist and campaigner for women to take a greater share of the power in Brazil, feels about being put into doll format without her consent is as yet unknown. In some countries an activity which is deemed to be an insult to the Head of State may give rise to criminal prosecution, but in Brazil it is unclear what the situation is. According to Wikipedia,
"In Brazil, defamation is a crime, which is prosecuted either as “defamation” (three months to a year in prison, plus fine; Article 139 of the Penal Code), “calumny” (six months to two years in prison, plus fine; Article 138 of the PC) and/or “injury” (one to six months in prison, or fine; Article 140), with aggravating penalties when the crime is practised in public (Article 141, item III). Incitation to hate and violence is also foreseen in the Penal Code (incitation to a crime, Article 286). ...".Images of the President Dilma Rousseff doll are on Marcus Baby's web page here.
Source: "For artist, Brazil's new president is a doll", Google News
Saturday, 8 January 2011
Koons Sues Over Balloons
However, just before Christmas Koons decided to take the initiative… His lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to Park Life a San Francisco shop for selling balloon dog book ends.
The letter has sparked a great deal of debate across the internet with many finding Koons’ approach somewhat hypocritical given his previous appropriations of other people's copyright work.
A&A has been particularly fascinated by the uncertainty as to the exact monopoly Koons is claiming in balloon images. Are children’s birthday party entertainers at risk of receiving similar letters? The bookend and the Koons sculpture are undoubtedly similar but there does not appear to be evidence that the bookend copied the sculpture – it could so much more easily be based on the balloon animals Koons copied in the first place.
It will be interesting to see if Koons decides to take this further and issue proceedings. At the moment, the shop in question, is being fairly bullish. It initially pulled all references to the balloon dog both in store and online but has now chosen a different tack and the balloon dog appears along with a message: “BALLOON DOG BOOKEND: please call Jeff Koons’ Lawyers.”
You can read more about the case here.
Source: Art Info
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
Rubbish or art?
Monday, 3 January 2011
Entrustment, insurance and top marks for Spencer
Art & Artifice has just been taking a peep at Spencer’s Art Law Journal, since vol.1, issue 3 (Winter 2011) is now available. As editor Ronald D. Spencer explains,
"This issue contains three essays, which will become available by posting on Artnet, starting December 2010.Looks good to us. The first article of 2011 is Elizabeth C. Black's " Entrustment, The Hidden Title Risk of Leaving Your Artwork in the Care or Possession of Others -- Will Your Fine Art Insurance Cover Your Loss? Probably Not". She concludes, following a review of US law and practice, that
... the legal structure we call art law (an amalgam of personal property law, contract, estate, tax and intellectual property law) supporting the acquisition, retention and disposition of fine art, often fits uneasily with art market custom and practice. The result is that 21st century art market participants are frequently unsure of their legal rights and obligations.
The goal of this Journal is to promote discussion of art law legal issues for lawyers and nonlawyers alike, so as to provide greater transparency, stability and predictability. ...
Three times a year issues of this Journal will address legal issues of practical significance to collectors, dealers, scholars and the general art-minded public."
" ... fine arts policy insurance claim for lost title due to an entrustment may result in a denial of coverage. You should be sure you always know the location of your artwork, who has possession of it, and whether or how it is being displayed (e.g., is it listed for sale?). Consignment agreements often run for years and artwork may be moved between various locations as a series of consignments from your dealer to other dealers (whose identity is not known to you) over the course of several years. The more informed you are about these re-consignments, the more likely you will be able to protect your interests".This looks like sensible advice, regardless of the jurisdiction -- though it's not just a question of being informed in the first place, it's also a question of how to remember to stay policy-conscious as art works travel and change their functionality between display object, item for sale and goods in transit.
Saturday, 1 January 2011
Happy new year!
As always, with the start of a new year many works of art lose their copyright protection. This blog is dedicated to the artists who died in 1940 and their now copyright free art. If you know of any artists we have overlooked, please let us know using the comments section below.
John Calvin Stevens
was an American architect who worked in both the Shingle Style, in which he was a major innovator, and the Colonial Revival style. He designed more than 1,000 buildings in the state of Maine and several others throughout the world, including various features of this church.
was a pioneer of modern Croatian sculpture and one of the initiators and organizers of artistic life in Zagreb at the turn of the century.
was a Soviet journalist, playwright, and short story writer acclaimed as "the greatest prose writer of Russian Jewry.” Despite being an enthusiastic and loyal Communist, Isaac Babel was arrested, tortured and executed during Stalin's Great Purge.
was an American marine painter. He was renowned for his images of the coast and sea. Seeing and understanding movement was fundamental to his art and teaching, and is reflected in his own maxim: “Paint in verbs, not nouns.” Woodbury had over 100 solo exhibitions throughout his career, and his work can be found in many of America’s most prestigious art galleries including the Met in New York.
was a renowned Swiss artist who died in 1940 of scleroderma, a disease which is generally acknowledged to have strongly influenced his creative art. Klee has been associated with Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, and Abstraction. His pictures such as this one of a cat
are difficult to classify. He generally worked in isolation from his peers, and interpreted new art trends in his own way. He was inventive in his methods and technique. Klee worked in many media including oil paint, watercolour, ink, pastel, etching and others. He often combined them into one work. He used canvas, burlap, muslin, linen, gauze, cardboard, metal foils, fabric, wallpaper, and newsprint.
dabbled in various artistic design enterprises particularly in applied arts, including constructing typefaces, ceramics, and magazine covers. In 1907, the German company Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gessellschaft (AEG) hired Behrens as a consultant. In an early form of marketing, he transformed the company's image and created, arguably the first, corporate identity. He designed the AEG trade mark, stationery and catalogues, as well a certain products for the company. Whilst his copyright no longer has any intellectual property rights, any trade marks which remain on the register can be protected almost indefinitely so long as the registrations are maintained.