Will Ford and Kresge Save DIA?

Detroit Institute of the Arts, Director, Graham Beal Photo via Bluin Artinfo

Live tweets from the Association of Art Museum Directors meeting in New Orleans last night revealed that Detroit Art Institute director, Graham Beal, was going public with news of a “grand bargain” between city mediators and a number of interested national and local foundations, including the Kresge Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

The news, breaking since December amidst rumors and paranoia, came just hours before headlines in The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News announced that negotiations, while still in progress, and still entangled in some sticky complications, seemed to be promising some dramatic relief in the form of some $300 — $500 million dollars.

Oddly, Beal was paraphrased in AAMD’s tweets as stating that DIA itself had been locked out of negotiations and had little to do with the deals:

Tweeted @MuseumDirectors, “Beal: @DIADetroit has had very little to do w/negotiations. They have happened around us; I have never met the Emergency Manger #AAMDNOLA”

The plan to leverage foundation support has been largely driven by U.S. District Court chief judge Gerald Rosen, the Mediator in the Detroit bankruptcy case, who called the foundations together this fall to discuss solutions for saving DIA’s collections and supporting pensioner’s claims. Ford Foundation CEO, Darren Walker, has also been cited as a booster, bringing other foundations on board.

Eye on the Banana


The Velvet Underground and the Andy Warhol Foundation have reached a very anti-climactic conclusion to their legal rivalry for Andy Warhol’s famous banana graphic.

The story held a great deal of promise for art/law geeks like myself who enjoyed its many complications. However the case has been dismissed following an announcement by the AWF that they have reached  “a confidential settlement” with the Velvets.

There are so many questions that remain unanswered:
Who owned the copyright? MGM? the AWF? The Velvet Underground?
Who owns the trademark?
What did the settlement entail? i.e.: who sold or licensed what rights to whom?
I’m guessing we will hear more soon enough, I mean, how confidential can it be? It’s about IP for godssake.

Follow Up: The OLEK Saga Unwinds

MLK, ala Olek, autobio is not for pussies.


...and it’s a nightmare!

The way Olek tells the story on her blog:

  • First a big drunken asshole sexually harasses her.
  • Rebuffed, he taunts her obscenely.
  • Doused with her wine, he threatens her.
  • Then when she strikes out in fear  (um, admittedly, she punched him in the face while holding her wine glass…) she’s arrested.
  • Then they drum up charges based on her carrying a small scissors that, as we all know she uses for her work. (I mean, like: duh!)
  • Then she gets strip searched and harassed some more.
  • Then THEY CONVICT HER and make her wait forever for her sentencing.

Meantime she’s in a foreign country where she has no connections and does not know the rules; her english is not top-notch;  they put her in holding for three days; and she can’t call anyone because she doesn’t remember anyone’s telephone number by heart.

She also could not talk to the press, could not defend her good name, could not make clear how badly she needed help, nor explain exactly what her justifications were.

Her sentencing has now been moved to November 15th.

What’s the take away? When in England, never make a huge drunk angry no matter how angry he makes you. If he threatens you, wait till he takes his weapon out and messes you up. And put your glass down; it’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye out.

Read her harrowing tale and reach out to her here.

Andy Warhol Foundation’s Magilla Power Grab?

One has to wonder at the timing involved in The Andy Warhol Foundation’s latest licensing of the famous 1967 Velvet Underground & Nico banana graphic to toy manufacturers Medicom Toy and popular Japanese urbanwear designers, A Bathing Ape. The trio has partnered to create the the BAPE CAMO BANANA pillow, designed with the legally contested banana graphic as a zip off cover. The pillow is available in three sizes and unzips to reveal A Bathing Ape’s signature green, pink, or blue camo. An indiscrete side seam features both the AWF Andy Signature label and BAPE label.

Given the January 11th lawsuit which lays claim to the graphic which was brought against The Andy Warhol Foundation  by The Velevet Underground’s Lou Reed and John Cale, this new licensing deal begs the question of whether it is a strategy to stake out a stronger legal claim to the banana graphic, an in-your-face jibe, or simply an ironically timed merchandising opportunity?

Oral Arguments in Prince v. Cariou Appeal Prove $ Trumps Transformative Use

I know you’re as sick of this guy as I am. Left Patrick Cariou’s image from Yes Rasta. Right: Some really dumb shit that’s worth a LOT of clams.

I stick to my unique opinion that Transformative Use is the least informative and worst measure you can use to defend appropriation: it’s vague and it is beside the point. The market argues well enough for itself and if you don’t believe me, keep tuned to the case and see. The MOST important points that will be made will turn on arguments about money.

Let’s begin…

The Cariou team took a beating in court this morning as three judges heard the oral arguments from both sides in the Prince v. Cariou appeal.

The judges seemed dismissive of key arguments that Price’s pilfering brought harm to Cariou’s market.

 Art in America quotes Judge Parker whose comments drew laughs from the courtroom:

 “Bringing up the market is a clear loser for you. You sold to a totally different audience, you’ve admitted that not many of the books were sold, you sold them out of a warehouse in Dumbo, and that the book was out of print. Prince was selling to a wealthier crowd, and on this side of the river.”

The judges also questioned Cariou lawyer Dan Brooks’ claim that gallerist Christiane Celle dropped Cariou from a show when she heard that Prince’s works were on display at Gogosian and that they contained Cariou’s imagery. One dealer, doesn’t “prove the foreclosure of a market” according to judge Schiller, moreover, Celle never did place Cariou on her artist’s roster.

Judge Parker, in a statement perfectly groomed for the press, equated the first circuit’s “draconian” injunction, ordering Gagosian Gallery and Richard Prince to destroy all unsold originals and materials of works that used Cariou’s imagery to something that Huns or the Taliban would approve of.

Meantime the Prince team’s pivotal argument about the transformative value of of Prince’s Canal Zone work rests ironically on the fact that the works, panned almost universally when they first showed, sell for mad dollar bills.

Money. The case can, does, will, and should, in my call-me-cynical opinion, be decided on the money. Money’s easy to measure. It’s easy to argue. And, apparently, Prince and Gagosian are now unabashedly saying so: you can tell an artwork’s message is new and transformative and worthy of salvaging and passing on to our children if people are willing to pay lots and lots of money for it.

Does that argument strike you as sheer bull shit? That’s because it is. How can you tell if an artwork is transformative and full of new and crucial information? Answer: you can’t.

But you can tell if one dude’s theft of another’s imagery is harmful or not.

The thing is, all art is transformative: good art, bad art, shallow art, quotation, re-iteration, mockery: it all adds to the great conversation. And to the extent that one work IS passed along and another is passed up — well, that is the measure of societal value. Pee-ree-od. There is added value in all creative efforts, and in the dialog surrounding their success and failure. So why duke it out in a courtroom with arguments that blather on like Socrates about intangibles like “societal value” and “transformative use”?

The case will bear me out: it will pivot so greatly, so obviously on money that subsequent cases will shrug off philosophy and stick to counting the money.

Maybe it’s MGM’s Banana?

Everybody Has a Sticker on This Banana! Graphic by Cat Weaver :)

Following up on the Velvet Underground v The Andy Warhol Foundation story, Hollywood Reporter speculates similarly to The Art Machine that the famed fruit’s copyright may belong to the record label.

Hollywood Reporters’s Eriq Gardner, wondering why the Velvet Underground hasn’t used a more fail-proof strategy of claiming the copyright for themselves (instead of opting to claim trademark protection on an image in the public domain) says,

“According to the facts in record, MGM Records paid both the band and Warhol $3,000 to furnish the image for use on the 1967 album cover. If the record label paid the money as a work-for-hire agreement, the true “author” of the image, under the law, would be the record label. We asked Universal Music Group, the seeming successor to MGM Records, to comment, but so far, we haven’t heard anything.”

It is an interesting speculation and one we may wonder about: is MGM silently planning its own little coup? And, if so, was it inspired by the Velvet’s bold but transparent strategies, or by press speculation about the Warhol graphic being a “work for hire?”

Or, maybe MGM has secret plans prompted by questions from sites like Hollywood Reporter asking them questions about the graphic? How meta would that be?

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