Thursday 24 May 2012

Taking Art law to the MAXXI

Sometimes the legal issues got a little bit blurry
Last Thursday and Friday there was a fantastic international art law conference organised by Massimo Sterpi on behalf of the International Bar Association at the MAXXI art gallery in Rome. There was a huge range of speakers from artists to curators, academics to lawyers.

The speakers gave a fascinating insight into the world of galleries and museums, private collections and provoked considerable debate on some of the issues facing the art world today. The sorts of issues covered included

(1) how you reach a legal definition of art – a particular issue when trying to justify a hefty price tag for what might, to the untrained eye, look like a pile of bricks or a bit of twisted neon light,

(2) how new forms of art such as holograms can fall within old legal definitions,

(3) ownership of digital art, particularly when it includes user generated content or consist of collections of other works gathered from across the internet – pinterest was a particular discussion point,

(4) broader questions of ownership of art, particularly large scale public or performance art primarily in the context of the Burning Man project,

(5) appropriationism including the case law (hello Jeff Koons, Cariou v Prince et al),

(6) the different treatment of art in different legal systems, particularly the relatively open approach of copyright compared to the prescriptive and literal approach of tax laws,

(7) the dangers that museums and galleries face from last minute lawsuits to demonstrations and public being put in danger (fire, falling masonry, falling over in darkness… the list of potential danger is seemingly endless),

(8) controversies surrounding certain types of art, particularly bio art (from glowing green bunnies to pickled human bodies).

The wonderful Zaha Hadid creation that is the MAXXI
Unsurprisingly, given the number of lawyers in the room, there was a lot of talk about copyright and the inherent problems in applying an old system to a new world where digital reproduction is quick and common and appropriationism has become an accepted and almost mainstream art form. 

Suggested solutions included a form of compulsory licensing for copyright works (similar to the approach taken in patent law), a taxation approach (i.e. you have to pay money if your use of a work makes you any money – probably not the favoured approach of the content industries), and a shorter term of copyright protection.

 I will be blogging in more detail on the issues raised in due course but if any of the above are of particular interest please let me know in the comments section below and I will try to cover them first...


vida said...

Would love to hear more about (5) and (4)!

Tom Ang said...

Wooo! Enough to keep all of us busy for the rest of the year. Love to see more on 1, 3, 5 but anything on any of the topics will be welcome. Thanks for offering.

Sergio Ruffolo said...

Another issue or aspect to consider in international art law, is languages. When litigation happens in an international setting, you need to consider legal translations of documents to understand and process the case.

Rosie Burbidge said...

Blog on 5 coming up soon...