A thief, posing as a customer, lifted a $150,000 Salvador Dali watercolor-and-ink painting right off a gallery wall and blithely walked out with it poking out of the top of a black shopping bag… Details on Hyperallergic: http://hyperallergic.com/author/cat-weaver/
Go ahead, expect more of these sweaty headlines with question marks in them. Because, with the now rather infamous Cariou v Prince case up for appeal sometime this year, we are facing another deluge of half-informed, and angrily contentious, punditry which will wash over the raw, dry, factual sands of more professional reports like a tsunami of histrionics.
Drowning in the madness will be all those bleeding hearts who root for the little guy, and the sundry art world know-it-alls who root for controversy, along with the fastidious fence straddlers like myself who can’t do right by anyone — and, let us not forget, the stalwart naifs who insist on seeing appropriation as flat out theft.
In the background, lawyers toil away, building sand castles of the driest, rawest, facts they can muster.
It is no wonder that the case has captured the attention of so many. It involves a lot of money, after all, and it pits an underdog, Patrick Cariou, against an art star, Richard Prince, and his giant posse of star-makers and lawyers. It also comes after artists had become cocky, with most copyright infringement cases settling without trial, and often to the mutual benefit of defendants and plaintiffs.
At base the issue is this: Richard Prince’s team must prove that district court judge Deborah A. Batts ruled in error when she decided against Prince’s fair use claim. Patrick Cariou’s lawyer, Dan Brooks, must argue that the ruling did, in fact, use the correct legal standard.
Brooks will file his opening brief by January 25th. Faced with the formidable 135 page appeal filed on Oct. 26, 2011 by big guns Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and a nearly 50 page amicus brief filed on behalf of Richard Prince by the Andy Warhol foundation, plus similar briefs from Google and a consortium of museums (including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago), Brooks will have to answer five newly refined points of contention.
- That contrary to the first circuit court’s decision, the Canal Zone works that use Cariou’s photos are indeed transformative in every sense established by art history and accepted artistic practice and constitute a fair use of those images.
- That Prince’s “intentions” do not factor into the meaning that his work may or may not have since it is the viewer and the context of a work that give it its meaning.
- That contrary to testimony, Cariou did not lose any marketing opportunities due to Prince’s use of his images; indeed, his lawyers argue, his book prices soared after the initial bout of litigation.
- That the first circuit decision, if upheld, will create a “chilling effect” on future creative work, and thereby will override the very purpose of the fair use exception which is intended to protect free speech and works of social value.
- That, in the Batts decision to protect the copyright holder, Patrick Cariou, the rights of the appropriation artist, Richard Prince were unduly impeded, as her ruling overreached in lumping all of the thirty paintings under one ruling.
In Part One of this Three Part series, I set up a virtual dialogue between Dan Brooks (Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP.), Patrick Cariou’s lawyer and Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project and a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School.
In Part Two, I will discuss the five points above in greater detail. In Part 3, I will part the waters.
It’s Not Funny if You Have to Explain It
Phillips dePury has topped past unintentionally funny catalog copy with a new gem describing Lot 30 in it’s upcoming Contemporary Art Auction. Lauding Richard Prince’s “Untitled Joke Painting,” dePury opens with this dubious gusher:
“Richard Prince’s Joke Paintings have remained a constant high point within the artist’s output for over two decades.”
Mm-hmm: Yes. Yes they have remained the high point. Sadly.
Then, having prepped us with the bad news, dePury goes on to do the WORST thing you can ever do to a comic: they EXPLAIN his joke!
“The work is technically lush, utilizing both acrylic and collage. The centered block letters read, in nine rows, “I never had a penny to my name, so I changed my name. Again, I never had a penn.” Prince’s obvious joke is corroborated by letters cut in half, and even missing with respect to final “y” in penny. One must assume that he did not have enough to his name even to get the text set correctly.”
Yeah. Heh heh. That must be it.
Oh, but there’s a leetle bit more: in case you missed that other funny…
“Interestingly, the joke Prince prints across the present lot is entirely unrelated to the subject of nurses, and thus the viewer might be left wondering what the connection is between the subject and its background. …If what he has collected also amounts to the oeuvre he has amassed, perhaps it’s simply natural for one piece to pratfall over another.”
Thank you. We might otherwise have assumed that Richard Prince just had a few nurses to get rid of.
“Street Art” is Just a Word for “Emerging Designer”
We’ve all seen it. Shep, Damien, Banksy… they started out hanging from the eves with a spray can, and ended up hawking t-shirts and limited edition art objects online. Yet even the advent of “Mr. Brainwash” didn’t really force us to just come out and SAY it.
But hell, now it’s time: The streets are just a starter kit for emerging artists with “urban” flavor: the goal is a corporate brand like OBEY or Objective Criteria.
Still, The Guardian sought out, Jeffrey Deitch, for the final word on street art as “big business.”
“Today, somebody does a tag in Russia, China, Japan, or Africa, a friend photographs it and within a few hours it’ll be viewed on websites all over the world,” says Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which recently opened a major show on the subject. “I think you can make a good case that street art is now the most influential art movement of the past 30 years. The penetration of urban culture is huge, and it’s influencing everything from skateboard design to high fashion. Some of these guys have even been hired to design Louis Vuitton handbags.”
Lee Wells, of Stratus Global Partners, suspects he may have landed on a very good deal while “manning the Dorian Grey Gallery” on Sunday:
The way he tells it: “A guy walks into the gallery and says ‘I used to roll with Haring and have a piece I want to sell and if you’re smart this is your lucky day because I need the cash today.'”
So he buys it because “the confidence of the mark tells me it just may be real,” and because “the lower tag is by long time Haring collaborator LA2 (Angel Ortiz).”
He spent “$99” on it, so the risk isn’t huge, though–the windfall may be — still, I admire his confidence.
Asked what comes next, Wells replied:
“Once we get it authenticated we will figure out what to do. It’s my piece and should I decide to sell it, I’ll will most likely share proceeds with LA2 and give a little back to the guy who sold it to me (maybe the gallery too) Its a pretty little piece from 1988.”
Curious about the possibility that a confidence trickster with a bit of niche art knowledge (and a confident hand) might be able to make a small pile of money by forcing hurried sales on galleries and collectors, I began a search for fake Harings — found nothing (so far) — but I did stumble upon a very fine site selling fake art to all the would-be collectors out there who scorn posters but must have a Keith Haring on their wall.
The whimsical Phillips de Pury & Company website is, as I’ve noted in the past, a remedy to prim auction house hem-haw. And I am pleased that Lot #1 of their Under the Influence auction of March 8, went for a full quarter of it’s estimated $100, 000 to hammer at $26,000 — the full proceeds of which, will benefit DonorsChoose.org, which sends dollars to classrooms with projects in need of materials and resources.
It is much the credit of PdP that they take on nonsense and give full fluff to the requisite irony.
Here’s the site description of Lot #1, in it’s full glory:
FULL PROCEEDS BENEFIT DONORSCHOOSE.ORG
STEPHEN COLBERT, SHEPARD FAIREY, ANDRES SERRANO AND FRANK STELLA
Portrait 5, Stephen(s), 2010
ESTIMATE: AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST •
PROVENANCE The Colbert Report
In an ambitious on-going work that calls to mind the sprawling constructed worlds of Matthew Barney and identity-questioning narratives of Sophie Calle, TV pundit and conceptual artist Stephen Colbert has been performing his site-specific installation, “The Colbert Report,”…
Begging the question of whether it’s still “street art” if you commission it for a Museum, Jeffrey Deitch, director of LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, had a freshly completed mural by Italian street artist, Blu, immediately white washed.
Looks like street art to me!
The rather heavy-handed mural depicting military coffins draped with out-sized dollar bills instead of flags (get it?), graced the north wall of the Geffen Contemporary Building for only the time it took to document it as part of the exhibit for the show’s catalog.
MOCA’s official statement says that the mural was “inappropriate” and pointed out that The Geffen Contemporary building’s north wall sits directly in front of the Go For Broke Monument that commemorates Japanese American soldiers and is very near the Veterans Affairs building.
Deitch told reporters that the issue is not censorship but timing: “Blu was supposed to fly out the second-to-last week in November, so we could have conversations about it in advance,. But he said he had to change his flights, so he ended up working in isolation without any input.”
Immediate comparisons to the Smithsonian/Wojnarowicz debacle show just how sensitive the creative community is these days to any hint of censorship.
But, Deitch dismisses any similarity in the cases:
“Look at my gallery website — I have supported protest art more than just about any other mainstream gallery in the country. But as a steward of a public institution, I have to balance a different set of priorities — standing up for artists and also considering the sensitivities of the community.”
Deitch also claims that he and the artist are “on friendly terms, ” but Blu’s blog features a photo of the naked wall with the capton, “A really nice, big wall, in downtown L.A.”
ADDENDUM: Via Hyperallergic: Blu claims that Deitch’s mural kill is indeed “censorship”; airs e-mail exchanges that challenge Deitch’s statements. This, likely, will turn into a fine back and forth. And in this hypersensitive atmosphere where artists, arts institutions, and pressure groups feel they are at war, issues like this one are bound to escalate. It is my own opinion that MOCA may not have dealt honestly with the artist and the public, but that the removal of the mural was not censorship. The commission was a blunder and the PR has been less than honest: period.
When a big name collector “offloads” the art of a specific artist from his collection, it can, we have heard, have a chilling effect on the market for that artist’s work. Sometimes this makes the artist very angry. Sometimes things escalate.
All the same, Charles Saatchi feels that a collector should do as they will with the artwork they buy.
Asked about a long-standing rumor that he had “ruined” the career of Sandro Chia when he purged his collection all of his Chias at once, Saatchi said:
“At last count I read that I had flooded the market with 23 of his paintings. In fact, I only ever owned seven paintings by Chia. One morning I offered three of them back to Angela Water, his New York dealer, where I had originally bought them, and four back to Bruno Bischofberger, his European dealer, where, again I had bought those. Chia’s work was tremendously desirable at the time a all seven went to big-shot collectors or museums by close of day.”
Often disputes between artists and dealers can turn into something like a divorce with all the same spoilage. The one between James Turrell, and Michael Hue-Williams of Albion gallery displays several kinds of ugly, fouled-up business, soiled reputations, career sabotage, and — sigh– lots of compromise.
If a dealer thinks an artist is not delivering on a commission, he can bring the artist to court, for instance. as Hue-Williams did to Turrell in 2007.
And if an artist thinks a dealer is selling pieces that he was not consulted about or paid for, he can counter-sue, as Turrell did to Hue-Williams.
Now when a dealer is miffed and spending money on litigation, he may take a the semi-self-sabotaging action of selling the artist’s work off at auction to make the artist look bad. This is what Michael Hue-Williams hinted at in a 2008 e-mail.