Wednesday 28 December 2011

Albrecht Dürer, entrepreneur -- and litigant

Dürer liked to stamp his identity
on his works -- but his identifier
ended up on a stamp ...
The Christmas edition of The Economist (17 December) carries a fascinating feature, "Portrait of the artist as an entrepreneur", which you can read in full on The Economist website here. This article chronicles the manner in which Albrecht Dürer commercialised his art works and explains the cost-effectiveness of generating printed engravings and woodcuts in preference to painting in oils: the effort was comparable, but the profitability of selling copies made the non-painting options far more attractive and the publicity and exposure helped expand his reputation far more than one-off paintings which were often viewed only by the commissioning party and his immediate associates.

How did Dürer deal with counterfeits and infringers, in an era in which copyright had yet to be invented? The article explains:
"Dürer twice went to court to defend his sole use of his trade mark, in Nuremberg and in Venice, and twice won the case. The guilty parties were made to remove his monogram from their prints. Merely copying “AD”, however, was not adjudged a crime. The crime was to sell the fake print as an original. From then on, therefore, false monogrammed prints “after Dürer” kept appearing, confusing collectors to this day.

A trade mark was not the only identifier Dürer put on his pictures. He left lines of commentary on the sketches, and gave the finished engravings elaborate marble tablets explaining his subject and his purpose. He wanted to tell the world that he, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg, had done this: that it was made, gemacht, with his genius and effort ...".
Curiously, while Dürer was particular to make sure that his initials appeared on his work so that it could be easily identified, the author of this article is apparently anonymous.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Discovering the lost Leonardo?

Peter Paul Rubens' copy of the "Battle of Anghiari""The Battle of Anghiari"s project of National Geographic (1603)
Louvre, Paris
The hunt for discovering a lost Leonardo Da Vinci is reaching its climax in Florence, while facing an hard protest by more than 150 prominent art historians, who criticize the destructive but speculative work possibly leading to a masterpiece's discovery.

The search for Leonardo's "Battle of Anghiari" conducted in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, in the famous Hall of 500, is a project led and sponsored by National Geographic and the University of California.

"The battle of Anghiari" was painted by Leonardo in 1505 to commemorate the 1440 battle on the plain of Anghiari between Milan and the Italian League led by the Republic of Florence, which emerged as the most important power in central Italy. In 1503, the Gonfaloniere Piero Soderini commissioned  Leonardo to decorate the wall in the Hall of 500 in Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of government in Florence. 

Da Vinci used this commission to experiment a new mural oil techinique which failed miserably, dripping before dried and leading him to abandon his work. Nonetheless, this masterpiece was later called " the school of the world" and was widely copied e.g. by Rubens, whose painting of one scene hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

After the 1555 the Hall was renovated and enlarged, Giorgio Vasari painted six new murals over the east and the west walls and Da Vinci half-finished painting was assumed to have been destroyed in the process. 

According to the director of this scientific research, Maurizio Seracini, the 16th century Giorgio Vasari's famous fresco "The battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana" painted in 1563 would hide the lost Leonardo's masterpiece. Probably Vasari, who was loath to destroy Leonardo's work, preferred to brick it up behind a new wall adding his fresco on this, rather than destroying it.

This thesis was strengthened when Seracini discovered that Vasari painted a soldier holding a flag on which is written "Cerca Trova", i.e. "Seek and Ye shall find", which can be a clue for the future generations. 

Seracini, one of the world's leading expert in the field of the art diagnostics, used non-invasive technique, such as high-frequency, surface-penatrating radar and  thermographic cameras, which confirmed there is an air gap behind the Vasari's fresco. The researcher inserted tiny cameras through seven drilled holes in the visible wall and found a 2cm cavity. On the back wall beyond the cavity,  traces of an organic pigment were found.  

Work started on November 27, 2011 and full results are expected at the beginning of the 2012. The city's mayor Matteo Renzi claimed " We are finally there - after five centuries we are finally able to solve one of the biggest mystery in the art history".

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Responses published: Gifts of pre-eminent objects and works of art to the nation

Last week, the government published the responses to its consultation on 'Gifts of pre-eminent objects and works of art to the nation' (written about in Art and Artifice here). The consultation, published in June 2011, outlined a new scheme aimed at encouraging lifetime gifts of cultural objects to the nation by rewarding the donors with tax breaks based on a percentage of the donated work's value.

Over 50 museums, archives, law firms and other bodies responded to the consultation. Their main concerns centred on a few key issues, including whether donors would be able to specify where their donated objects were displayed, the amount of the scheme's budget, and the amount of tax relief given to donors.

Under the scheme as originally proposed, donors could express a preference as to where their gift went, but their wishes would not be binding - the gift might end up elsewhere. Respondents pointed out that this could undermine links between potential donors and museums or galleries, since donors often want to give items to specific institutions with which they have built up a relationship. Despite these concerns the government has retained this aspect of the scheme and donors will only be able to suggest who should receive their cultural objects. However if in practice donors' wishes tend to be followed, this may not cause as many difficulties as is feared.

Many respondents also felt that the suggested tax relief of 25% of the donated item's value was too low and would inhibit take up of the scheme. Some pointed out that the rate compared unfavourably with similar schemes in other countries, and also that donors might find it more tax advantageous to sell art works and donate the proceeds using the Gift Aid scheme. In response, relief is now set to be increased to 30% for individual donors (and 20% for company donors).

Respondents were also concerned that the new scheme was to share the £20m budget of the existing Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme. No new funds were to be allocated. Just a few high-value gifts might therefore wipe out the whole budget. It is now intended that, although the two schemes are still to share budgets, their joint allocation will increase to £30m.

And one other welcome change has sneaked in - the scheme's unwieldy title appears to have been mercifully shortened to the 'Cultural Gifts Scheme' or CGS.

Read the full consultation response summary from HM Treasury here, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's guidance to the new scheme here.

Friday 9 December 2011

Illustration NOW!

Illustration is a vast and often unappreciated discipline but its undisputed king, in the UK at least, must be Quentin Blake. Roald Dahl created the BFG, the Twits and Matilda and Quentin Blake brought them to life.

It was thus a pleasure to spend Wednesday night in the company of Mr Blake who was speaking at yet another fantastic event organised by Collyer Bristow’s gallery. Quentin (we have been in the same room and are therefore definitely on first name terms) was raising both awareness and, more importantly, money to help fund the House of Illustration, which will become the first dedicated illustration centre when it is finally built in the King’s Cross development zone, London. The artistic and legal communities combined last night to help realise this aim with a selection of prints on sale all in response to the question “what are you like?”.

You can help support this great cause and purchase a limited edition print here.

If you’re worried you missed out last night, fear not. The art and legal communities are combining again in the New Year for an Illustration Cupboard organised exhibition of Tony Healey’s illustrations to the John Mortimer classic series – Rumpole of the Bailey.  The exhibition runs from 20 February to 3 March 2012 at the Illustration Cupboard, in London. The full details are not yet available online but this blog will be updated as soon as they become available.

Rumpole considers how best to present his case in this Tony Healey classic illustration

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Artist's Resale Right Update

After all the debating (examples here and here), consulting (here) and petitioning (reported here), it looks like the extension of the Artist's Resale Right to the works of deceased artists will take effect from 1 January 2012.

The Artist’s Resale Right (Amendment) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/2873) were laid before the UK Parliament on 2 December 2011. These amend the Artist’s Resale Right Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/346) and bring the UK in line with the European legislation (Directive 2001/84/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 September 2001 on the resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art).

New Regulation 10 will read as follows:

"Resale right may only be exercised in respect of the sale of a work where its
author is—

(a)living at the date of the sale and is at that date a national of—
(i)an EEA state; or
(ii)a state the legislation of which permits resale right protection for authors from EEA states and their successors in title; or
(b)deceased at the date of the sale and, at the date of the author’s death, the author was a national of a state falling within paragraph (a)i) or (ii).”

There is a Final Impact Assessment which accompanies the new Regulations, which apparently provides a full evaluation of the effect that the amended regulation will have on UK businesses and users. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to access these via the website. There will be another update once these are available.


Ah ha - some helpful guidance from the UKIPO!

So, I have been told that the new 2011 Regulations do not extend Resale Right to deceased artists. In fact, the existing UK Regulations (2006) will automatically extend the Right to deceased artists from the beginning of next year.

The Regulations laid on 2 December address the issue of the nationality of those people entitled to resale royalties. The IPO advises that the original UK implementation did not match the original Directive, so some corrections were needed.

I hope to have a closer look at the law this weekend. Another update once I have had a chance to digest it.

With thanks to the IPO.

The new Regulations are
The impact assessment should be accessible here.
The Directive is here.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Illegal illegal art

An interesting report concerning a German documentary about graffiti artists in Berlin has surfaced this week.

The producers of the documentary, entitled Unlike U – Trainwriting in Berlin about [you probably guessed it] graffiti on the Berlin subways, have made a full version of their film available online following a legal claim by the Berlin transport company, BVG, seeking to prevent the film from being distributed.

The basis for BVG's claim is reportedly that the filmmakers and their distributor did not obtain filming permits for to shoot footage at train stations and on other premises owned by BVG. In response, the filmmakers have said that they did not actually shoot any of the clips - said to demonstrate the dangerous lengths to which the graffiti artists go to paint Berlin 's trains, including sneaking through underground tunnels and climbing over high-voltage electric third rails to get onto the platforms [see picture]. Instead, they say, all of the footage was submitted to them by the trainwriting crews responsible for the graffiti shown in the film.

Rather than wait for the verdict of the German court, however, the producers decided to make the whole film available since they "spent a lot of time and put in a lot of lifeblood on working on that movie [and so] would like to give everybody the opportunity to see the outcome."

This situation therefore raises a number of interesting issues:
- is the art illegal?
- is it illegal to film someone carrying out an illegal activity?
- is it illegal to distribute a film made without filming permits?

Clearly, in this case the answers depend on the German law. If anyone has any more information in relation to the claim, or general opinions on the legal issues I would be very interested to receive it.

For more information on the film see
To help the filmmakers defend their claim go
To watch the movie go

Source: GigaOm, 5 December 2011

Monday 5 December 2011

Show me the money ...

Radiator Building - Night, New York
Fisk University, Tennessee has in recent years found itself in a position that will be familiar to many art-owning institutions. It's strapped for cash and wants to use its art collection to make money - but the law has been putting spanners in the works.

The story began in 1949, when painter Georgia O'Keeffe gave Fisk a 101-piece collection of artworks, most belonging to her late husband Alfred Stieglitz and including her own iconic 1927 painting, Radiator Building - Night, New York. She stipulated that the collection was not to be sold, and should remain intact.

Fifty years later the Nashville-based university was facing something of a financial crisis. In response, its president Hazel O'Leary hatched a plan to sell both Radiator Building and a second work, Painting No. 3 by Marsden Hartley (two of the most valuable paintings in the collection) to bolster the university's funds. But the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which represents the artist's estate, sued to prevent the sale since it was in breach of the terms of the gift.

Then in autumn 2007 Fisk began negotiations with Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. The deal they drew up would see Crystal Bridges take a 50% stake in the collection, and Fisk receive US$30m in return.

But this idea was initially blocked in the courts too. It was even argued that Fisk should forfeit the whole collection to the O'Keeffe Museum for having violated the terms of the gift by removing some items from display and attempted to sell others. It was held in early 2008 that although the terms had indeed been violated, Fisk would nonetheless be able to retain the collection. 

Later the Crystal Bridges deal was accepted by the court, but with the proviso that US$20m of the sale proceeds must be retained as an endowment for the upkeep of the collection. Finally, last week a Tennessee appeals court ruled that no such endowment was necessary (although it may still attach other conditions to the deal).

Deaccessioning artworks in order to pay the bills has been equally controversial in the UK in recent years. In 1993 for example Royal Holloway sold a Turner in its collection for £11m and received a barrage of abuse. In 2007 Bury Council raised £1.4m by selling off a Lowry to a private collector, and lost its status as an accredited museum with the Museums Association.

However impoverished an institution, selling its artworks is rarely deemed an acceptable solution by the art world and the press, even if it is legally possible to do so. But for Fisk, the Crystal Bridges deal would be a lifeline, according to president O'Leary. The university runs at an annual deficit of US$2m and has already mortgaged all its buildings. And the upkeep of O'Keeffe's collection costs US$131,000 a year. When asked if Fisk was viable without extra financing, O'Leary replied, 'No, not at all.'

An art collection should not exist to be dipped into whenever funds run low. Such an attitude can be a disincentive to donors both of funds and of art, encourage a lack of initiative in fundraising, and undermine collections' existence as cultural and scholarly resources. But is it always the wrong thing to do? Fisk seems a good example to the contrary. The highly regarded institution, through no lack of effort, has not been able to fund itself effectively. O'Keeffe's magnificent gift has become a liability and Fisk has been unable to show it or look after it effectively. It does not intend to send the collection into private hands, nor to anyone who cannot take adequate care of it (Crystal Bridges is certainly not short of money with Wal-Mart behind it). In such circumstance, it is surely the the right choice to sell part ownership, rather than that Fisk should retain a collection it can't look after and cripple itself in doing so.

Read more at The Tennessean, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post.

Friday 2 December 2011

UNESCO announces 19 additions to its list of intangible cultural heritage

In UNESCO's stable of conventions for the protection of world heritage lives the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage 2003 - the heritage equivalent of performance art.

Over the past week, an annual committee meeting has been discussing new additions to the group of traditions which UNESCO lists as intangible cultural heritage. As the committee envoys were making their way home from sunny Bali, UNESCO announced that the list now includes 19 more 'practices and expressions that help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance'.
Intangible, but festive: Croatian gingerbread

The list includes a wide array of traditions including Cypriot poetic duelling, Peruvian Eshuva sung prayer, and Iranian Naqqa-Li, a form of dramatic storytelling. Weaving, dance, boatbuilding, and foods are all in there. Some more unexpected traditions have made their way to the list too - a nine-hundred-year old hopping procession in Luxembourg, oil wrestling, gingerbread making, the tango and even the 'Mediterranean diet' (which actually appears to be doing quite well on its own). There is also a second list, which notes those traditions which are in urgent need of safeguarding.

Safeguarding such practices by means of international legislation seems a strange and difficult task - how do you ensure continuity in the supply of traditional gingerbread? But the Convention defines 'safeguarding' as 'ensuring the viability of intangible cultural heritage'. It asks that states make inventories of traditions within their territory, 'ensure recognition of and respect for the intangible cultural heritage in society, in particular through developing educational, awareness-raising and information programmes', and supporting non-formal means of transmitting knowledge which enables the practices to continue.

The Convention also acknowledges that traditions which have lost relevance to their communities should not necessarily be kept alive on legal life support. Intangible cultural heritage, like 'any living body ... follows a life cycle and therefore some elements are to disappear, after having given birth to new forms of expressions', says UNESCO's website. It goes on to say that the 'value of intangible cultural heritage is defined by the communities themselves – they are the ones who recognise these manifestations as part of their heritage and who find it valuable'.

This is an interesting point. If a tradition is in need of safeguarding, and particularly urgent safeguarding, does this not often mean that it is already losing relevance to its community? To take a homegrown example (not on UNESCO's list), the art of dry-stone walling in Yorkshire is no longer one which young locals want to pursue. The region has fewer farms, fewer livestock, and needs fewer dry-stone walls. Sad as it is to see such arts falling out of use, their place in community life may have gone. But on the other hand it could be argued that if such traditions are worth safeguarding at all, they should be preserved regardless of whether or not they are relevant to the communities they came from. Physical culture after all is preserved whether it is relevant to current generations or not (or rather, as the manifestation of our past, it is deemed always relevant to our future); a ruined tomb in a Turkish village from a long-gone civilisation is no longer connected with that village, but that doesn't mean it's not worth looking after.

Thursday 1 December 2011

What we talk about when we talk about appropriation

Back in March Art & Artifice posted this piece on Cariou v Prince, in which a photographer, who had published a selection of his works in a book called Yes, Rasta, objected to what an appropriation artist considered to be fair transformative use of those photographs. This case and the legal issues it brought to light are the subject of a discussion, "What we talk about when we talk about appropriation: Contemporary Art After Cariou v. Prince". This is billed as "a frank discussion of fair use and artistic practice". Taking place in the Great Hall of the New York City Bar Association (that's on West 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues)  on Tuesday 13 December, 2:00 - 4:00 pm, the programme examines this question:
Art and legal experts use similar terminology when talking about how artists use existing images, but are they speaking the same language?
The Panelists are Dan Cameron (Curator), Anthony Falzone (Stanford Fair Use Project), Claudia Ray (Kirkland & Ellis LLP), Walter Robinson (Artnet), Virginia Rutledge (PIPE Arts Group) and Hank Willis Thomas (Artist), with Amy J. Goldrich exercising a moderating influence.

Entrance is free and there is are registration formalities. If anyone attending the discussion would like to send Art & Artifice a little summary, we'd be delighted to see it!

More background on Cariou v Prince here and here