Thursday 10 April 2014

Snowy Mountain meltdown as precious artwork vanishes

If you see something like this, be sure to tell the HK police
"HK police seek 'thrown away' painting worth $3.72m" is the title of a BBC news post today which reads, in salient part, as follows:
"Hong Kong police are investigating the disappearance of a painting worth $3.7m (£2.2m) from a hotel, amid reports it may have been accidentally thrown away. The painting is believed to be a Chinese ink work by artist Cui Ruzhuo entitled Snowy Mountain.

It was reported missing by auctioneers Poly Auction on Tuesday, having been successfully sold on Monday. Several local media reports suggest cleaners at the Grand Hyatt could have thrown the painting out as rubbish.

According to the South China Morning Post, CCTV footage showed a security guard kick the packaged painting over to a pile of rubbish. Citing a police source, the paper said that cleaners were then seen throwing the rubbish away, with the rubbish taken to landfill. In a statement, the hotel said it was working with investigators.
"As the organiser has rented our event venue for this auction, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong is doing its best to offer assistance to Poly Auction including letting the police view the CCTV footage along with our security team," it said.
The hotel said the auctioneers were responsible for items they sold ...".
This blogger is not sufficiently familiar with the facts, the terms of any contract between the hotel and the auctioneers or the details of local law to be able to make any confident pronouncements as to who is responsible -- and for what. However, it seems to him that paintings and other artworks are so frequently disposed of, damaged or destroyed by cleaning staff that the risk of this happening is as much a foreseeable outcome of hosting an exhibition or auction that one might wonder why there isn't some regular routine or protocol that should govern what cleaners can and can't do in circumstances in which artwork is being exposed within their establishments.

Another point to ponder relates to the artist's resale right.  No such right appears to exist in the law of Hong Kong but, if it had, would an artist be able to secure a proportion of the auction price of the resale of a painting that was lost or destroyed before it ever reached its intended purchaser?

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