On Derivative Art and Law

Robert J. Lang's creation takes a munch break at MoMA

In my latest on Hyperallergic,  I gave Robert J. Lang the mic and he gave us a lesson in the history, diversity, and multiple uses of origami! He also comments very briefly on his current lawsuit against artist Sarah Morris whom he accuses of copyright infringement.

I have been following copyright infringement cases for a while now and find it very interesting that people tend to predict case outcomes based on their personal opinions about copyrights, or the individual artists, or the genres of art involved. Rarely do I see discussions about derivative art, copyrights, and lawsuits that actually deal with the legal issues that are involved.

The Lang v Sarah Morris case is a very good example. People who have taken a strong position in favor of derivative art are predicting that Morris cannot lose. Others see this as clear case of infringement and are rooting for the origami artists. But few seem to understand the legal terms they are using to support their emotional arguments. And fewer still seem to understand that the courts don’t care what sort of art you like.

The fact is, it can be pretty hard to predict the outcomes of these cases without a good look at the depositions and the court records. And arguments about the court’s decisions look pretty silly when they misunderstand terms like “transformative” or mistake the word “derivative” for an insult. These legal terms are too often reacted to in a naive and emotional way even by some who set themselves up as experts on the subject.

I will follow up here in a week or so, with an essay about the legal issues involved in these cases, and how they are misunderstood by the public.

The Law of Maximized Irony

I have a metaphysical theory that I call The Law of Maximized Irony:

In a nutshell, any set of initial circumstances will resolve to the state of greatest irony.

Case in point:

With increasing frequency we see incredulous stories about artists who’ve made careers out of cribbing other people’s work suing artists who have copied them. Is it flat out hypocrisy, or good business strategy — or both? Whatever is behind it, the story makes for a lot of really good laughs.

Check out my latest in Hyperallergic:

Is a Cease and Desist About Irony, Hypocrisy or Legal Strategy?

 

Portrait 5 Stephen(s), 2010 Lot #1

Stephen(s)
Portrait 5, Stephen(s), 2010

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:

1

FULL PROCEEDS BENEFIT DONORSCHOOSE.ORG

STEPHEN COLBERT, SHEPARD FAIREY, ANDRES SERRANO AND FRANK STELLA

Portrait 5, Stephen(s), 2010

Inkjet on canvas, with acrylic spray paint, Sharpie, looked-at-edness of Frank Stella. Printed at 291 Digital in New York. Suitable for Framing.  47 x 36 in. (not available in metric)  Signed “Andres Serrano” lower left.

ESTIMATE: AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

SOLD AT $26,000

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,”…

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State of the Art Market: Just my Perfunctory Opinion

6267746-heart-monitor-screen

More moaning than ever about the difficulties of evaluating contemporary art. Back that with lots more talk about “speculators” and you have the equivalent of stock brokers hating on day traders.

Lots of breathless pronunciations that the art market is back in boom times.

Perpetual claims of “record” sales prices for every tiny art genre, artist, and period make every evening sale an historic event.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

With our new 3-second news cycles, and all the sweaty drama poured into the auction summaries,  it is hard to imagine that that the art market really does map onto the broad stock market:  Sotheby’s stock fell with the Japanese stock bubble at the tail end of the 80’s, dropped in front of the Nasdaq in the 90s, and  then lead the fall in 2007, dropping swiftly in November, well ahead of the broad stock market which fell in December of that year and sloped downward at a more graceful pace.

Judging from recent reports one could definitely get the impression that the next boom is on, as we may have in May of 2010, only to waken to hand-wringing despair as we did in June and July. Now as we are watching a rocky climb back up again, it is wise to take each $17 Million dollar unregistered Warhol portrait with a grain of salt

BITS: Art for Art’s Sake and Art for Espianage

THE UNDERBELLY PROJECT

This past week, Vandalog,  and The New York Times (amongst very few others) reported on a very elite art viewing experience. This was not for folks with paddles, not for Armani-suited champagne-sippers, and not even for the hippest hipsters, consulting Flavor Pill and attending the latest Winkle and Balktick events.

TrustoCorp Photo by RJ Rushmore. See more thorough coverage of this story and lots of amazing photos by Mr. Rushmore, Workhorse, and PAC on the Vandalog site.

Nope. This was for a select group of intrepid insiders. Journalists, who were, by invitation only, escorted into the unhallowed depths of our unfair city to view an art show that was created soley for, and in tribute to, art itself.

Continue reading “BITS: Art for Art’s Sake and Art for Espianage”

Feel Free to Match the Couch: A Guide to Buying Art Online

Popping up, all over the internet, like bald little mushroom heads in the corner of an overgrown garden, are dozens of buy-art-online sites. Their spores are in the air. There’s a new one every day, with offerings that cover the whole gamut of affordability, quality and snob appeal.

It’s time to match the couch, my friends — shamelessly, and in the privacy of your own homes; the way you shop for porn.

BZA CO

Continue reading “Feel Free to Match the Couch: A Guide to Buying Art Online”

ALEX PRAGER: Where We Went From There

© 2010 Alex Prager
Alex Prager (American, born 1979) Desiree from the series The Big Valley. 2008. Chromogenic color print, 36 x 48 1/2" (91.4 x 123.2 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of the Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Linda and Gregory Fischbach, and William S. Susman and Emily Glasser © 2010 Alex Prager, courtesy Yancey Richardson Gallery

There are moments throughout the history of art, when, marveling at the latest aesthetic affront, the public, the critics, and even fellow artists have thrown up their hands and asked, “Where can we possibly go from here?”

And as art has grown ever more referential and every medium, self-referential— when there is nary an image that does not lay claim to a legacy of irony that is now generations deep: well: what can possibly come next?

Answer: Alex Prager.

Continue reading “ALEX PRAGER: Where We Went From There”

Art Noir: Black Lists and Speculators

Charles Saatchi: photo via http://www.artconcerns.com

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.”

Continue reading “Art Noir: Black Lists and Speculators”

MoMA’s Got a Brand New App

Today MoMA announced the release of its new app for Apple’s iPhone, and iPod Touch, now available on the App Store. It’s a free download that provides views of 32,000 works from the Museum’s collection, plus lots of very useful extras, including a dictionary of art terms, a database of artist bios, a calendar of exhibitions, film screenings, and events, and a variety of audio tours for youngsters, as well as for the visually impaired.

Continue reading “MoMA’s Got a Brand New App”

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