Wednesday Bits: Artists. Can’t Live With ‘Em, Can’t Live With ‘Em

Harumph! Pic of Daniel Buren snagged via The Art Newspaper
Harumph! Pic of Daniel Buren snagged via The Art Newspaper

Daniel Buren Lights a Fire Under Lyon’s Ass

Lazy Lyon is making Daniel Buren look bad —at least the city is making Buren’s work look bad.  The state of neglect that his installation (a characteristic grid of 69 tiny fountains and 14 pillars) festers in has driven the artist to threaten legal action.

The city says there is a plan to restore it, just as soon as they fix their Bartholdi Fountain, which Buren figures is probably never since he’s not heard from Lyon officials since 2008.

Saying that he’d prefer they tear the whole thing down, the maddened artist told French newspaper, Le Progés, “Without a legal attack, I think—I’m convinced, even—that [the city] won’t want to do anything,”

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Photo of Dan Fontes Mural covered in tags and beige slop paint. Pic by Andrew Johnstone for Examiner
Photo of Dan Fontes Mural covered in tags and beige slop paint. Pic by Andrew Johnstone for Examiner

Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse

Muralist Dan Fontes is suing some poor schmucks who don’t know the law.

Seeking $400,000 in damages, he and his attorney, Brooke Oliver are holding both the current and past operators of an Oakland CA Nissan dealership responsible for painting over a 28 year old, 98 foot, mural depicting Lake Merritt.

The artist claims he received a $35,000 commission for the work in 1986 but legal calculations seem to be based on the artist’s further claim that he “spent more than 18 months and $100,000” in the process of painting and installing the huge piece on a detachable cement surface so that it could be moved if a future building owner did not want it. Apparently it was painted with a special paint made for reactors and dams and was supposed to last 100 years.

Former owner Michael Murphy is included in the lawsuit because, while dealing with the passing of his wife, he apparently failed to respond to the artist’s overtures to repair the mural that had been partially painted over and defaced with graffiti.

Meantime current owner, Autocom Network, Inc. which had the mural painted over after purchasing the building, has fallen into a legal minefield called the Federal Visual Artists Rights Act which extends copyright protections to artists even if their works are on private property. A propos of this case, the law holds that building owners are required to give an artist 90 days advance notice before they can paint over or destroy work that is on their site.

In a statement that smacks of ambulance chasing, Brooke Oliver told the Oakland Tribune “Apparently the law isn’t widely known or followed,” adding “We do those cases all the time.“

Hmmmm: do you now?

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Oft cited disowned 1962 painting
Oft cited disowned 1962 painting

To Sleep Perchance to Abstraktes Bild

Meantime it’s been about a month since we heard that Gerhard Richter, always up for a bit of a tussle, declared that he was disowning some of his early West German period works, removing them from his self-curated catalog raisonné. The story set the presses on fire and was quickly doused by the usual chase for newer headlines. Is anyone still wondering how the unprecedented move will affect the record-smashing artist’s market?

I’m guessing Abstraktes Bild works will actually benefit —safer than ever in the canon of art history, having survived the prodigious (albeit subjective) re-write —and as those continue to break records, many other works will suffer; because who knows when Richter may want to throw another wrench into his own market?

Yet art history will plug along with an asterix next to a growing number of Richter citations. Catalogs raisonné for Richter will multiply and vary in claimed authenticity.

[The writer falls asleep…]
Other artists will follow suit!
And then an artist will disown and then re-authorize some works.
Perhaps it will be Richter himself…

[Wakes with a snort]
Nah! I dream!
Aye there’s the rub, for Richard Prince will not ever de-authorize his silly DeKooning collages and then appropriate them into re-assembled DeKoonings!
But there’s a dream heartily to be dreamt!

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