Saturday 15 October 2011

Can you make a sculpture with a bit of paper?

WARNING: This is not a blog about origami.

It is Frieze-ing in London this week.

Frieze art fair lives in a lovely bubble where the global economy is not on verge of collapse and people still have bottomless pockets full of money to lavish on the art world. Works on sale range from the tens to the millions of pounds and cover all forms of artistic media. This year it is hosting over 170 galleries from around the world and has a variety of talks to keep punters entertained.

One of the big talking points has been “The Finest Art on Water”. This work of “art” is in fact a yacht. Buyers can choose to buy the yacht as a boat for €65m (approx £58m) or as a sculpture for €75m (approx £66m). What’s the difference? Well it all lies in a bit of paper, a certificate of authenticity, which is provided for a mere €10m by German artist Christian Jankowski. This is not the only boat on sale with alternative embodiments (boat/art) but, as the most expensive example, it is the one which has raised the most eyebrows.

Presumably when Jankowski seeks to transform the boat into “art” he intends it to be a sculpture, as opposed to a work of artistic craftsmanship (which it may well be in its own right).

At the risk of being pedantic, can a boat be a sculpture in the legal sense? And how can a bit of paper change its designation?

Lucasfilm v Ainsworth spent a lot of time considering whether stormtrooper helmets were sculpture but didn’t reach a final conclusion on how to define a sculpture. The closest the Supreme Court came was to cite Richard Meade QC’s formulation, as put forward in Metix v Maughan, with approval [35]. Meade suggested that “a sculpture is a three-dimensional work made by an artist's hand”. Neither the boat nor the certificate satisfies this requirement (although the certificate may well be an artistic work, as a painting or other two dimensional work).

You can read more about Jankowski here.

Read the Guardian story which inspired this blog here.

Can’t make it to Regent’s Park to buy a boat? Fear not, you can browse the virtual art gallery here.

1 comment:

mathinker said...

I think, in part, the answer depends upon what you mean by "a sculpture". If being a sculpture necessarily includes qualifying for copyright protection, then there is a good chance that a boat cannot/might not be a sculpture in the US, where creative works which are too utilitarian do not qualify for copyright. (NB: I am not a lawyer.)