A recent article in the Huffington Post, written by Arianna Huffington herself, has ignited a debate about museums and technology.
Huffington, a self-proclaimed "evangelist for new media" admits to feeling "oddly reticent" about museums using social media to reach out to its audience. "That's because museums deliver what has become increasingly rare in our world: the opportunity to disconnect from our hyper-connected lives, and the possibility of wonder," she reasons.
She refers to another article in the New York Times, by Edward Rothstein, that deals with Museums' apps. Apps help visitors get information and interact with the works on display, but Rothstein argues that, "The app isolates objects rather than connecting them."
But these technologies can help attract audiences. Judith H. Dobrzynski, of Real Clear Arts, points out that new media can also attract donors. Dobrzynski's article focuses "Clickistan", a new online game at the Whitney Museum that was created to raise money for the museum.
Lee Rosenbaum, of Culture Grrl, acknowledges that reaching out to younger audiences "probably does mean tech-ing up." The Culture Grrl also directs our attention to the response given by Nina Simon, the Museum 2.0 blogger. Simon tells Huffpost that, "new tools, especially those that personalize and democratize the experience, help more people have those peak experiences with art and culture.”
For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers several digital tools at MetShare to help visitors "enhance [their] understanding of and appreciation for works of art in its collection, and to connect with and share their experiences with others." But what about photos and other reproduction of the works in museums? Nina Simon at the Museum 2.0 blog has written about photo policies in museums and intellectual property rights.
The next issue for art lawyers will be what legal consequences these technologies will have.
The story is both common and atypical: "During the World War II, while on loan to the Dresden Museum from the family of the former prime minister of Saxony, the "Nereid Sweetmeat Stand" was stolen from a castle where it was hidden. The porcelain piece, valued at more than $1 million, was recently located at the Toledo Museum of Art, which has agreed to return it to the heirs of the former prime minister. . . In 1955, the Stand was purchased from a European art dealer, subsequently imported into the United States, and sold to the Toledo Museum of Art. Recently, the Stand was determined to be the stolen Nereid Sweetmeat Stand after being examined by staff from the Toledo Museum of Art, the Dresden Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and special agents from ICE HSI."
Case on point: while Robert Romanoff, a New York art collector and heir to a beef company fortune, was away during the Thanksgiving weekend, somebody drilled a hole into his apartment in the Meatpacking District and stole his collection of Pop Art by Roy Lichtenstein (including "Thinking Nude" on the left) and Andy Warhol.
The estimated value of the donation is €120 million. "The agreement will only come into effect under the condition that Berlin city council places the collection, in its entirety, in the hands of the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage as a permanent loan, and that the Foundation guarantees that parts of the collection are placed on permanent display within its own collection of modern art."
Photo by Mark Mattingly.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a portrait of King Philip IV in 1913, as a bequest from Benjamin Altman. The portrait of the 18-year-old monarch was said to have been done by Diego Velazquez.
Unfortunately, Philip's reign at the Met was cut short in 1973, when the Museum reconsidered his Majesty and declared the work to have been done by an assistant or follower of Velazquez.
In 2009, the Museum decided to clean Philip up for good. The New York Times reports that Keith Christiansen, the Met’s chairman of European paintings, was inspired by work done at the Frick Collection on a later portrait of the King - also by Velazquez. Christiansen confessed, “if Michael [Gallagher, chief conservator for the Met,] hadn’t proceeded with the restoration, I was going to put it in storage.”
As a result of the restoration process, which has taken over a year to complete, the painting has been declared a true Velazquez. The visual results of the restoration can be seen at The Telegraph.
The BBC reports that this painting "was among 300 disputed works all downgraded by the Met 37 years ago, despite the museum owning the artist's signed receipt of payment from the king." What more is required to prove authenticity? Should the market rely on art experts, historians, authentication committees, or scientific techniques? When should cleaning and restoration efforts be undertaken to help prove authenticity? Most importantly, when should lawyers become involved?
The gift goes back up on display today at the Met.
"ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) opened four investigations on five websites after receiving leads from the RosOkhranKultura, the Russian Government agency responsible for the protection of cultural heritage property. Documents were identified for sale or loan from Websites in Amherst, N.H., New Haven, Conn., Upland, Calif., Atlanta and New York City. Prices ranged from $300 to $15,000 per document. ... Ambassador Kislyak said at the repatriation ceremony, "I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude to the U.S. authorities and professionals of the and personally to Mr. John Morton, Director of Immigration Customs Enforcement who accomplished great job to return these historic treasures to the people of Russia. We value your contribution to the strengthening of cooperation between Russia and the United States.""
For more on theft, recovery and return of library and archival materials from Russia and Iraq, consider attending the Restitution Conference at Cardozo in March 2011.
"The Three Graces", painted in 1531 by Lucas Cranach the Elder, was deemed a Trésor National of France in July 2009. Having acquired the status of a national treasure, the Louvre acquired a right of first refusal until the end of January 2011. In November 2010, The Louvre launched a campaign to gather funds necessary to acquire the work.
How would the ancient and prestigious museum go about acquiring a 16th-century masterpiece? By using the internet, of course.
The museum's web campaign was a wild success. In less than one month, over 5,000 web donors helped raise over 1,000,000 Euros. The work will go on on display in March 2011 and will accede to the Louvre's collection after April 2011.
According to the New York Times, this was not the first time that the Louvre had launched a public campaign in 1988 to help finance the acquisition of a work. However, this marks the first time that the internet has been used, emphasizing the democratic and populist nature of the effort.
The internet may be an important tool in dissipating people's perceptions of museums as elitist institutions. According to the Code of Ethics of the International Council of Museums, "Museums that maintain collections hold them in trust for the benefit of society and its development." Even a German Renaissance masterpiece based on Greek mythology, admittedly esoteric, can become a public good. By launching this campaign, the Art Market Monitor, says that "the Louvre made the first steps toward truly making art held in museums a public trust[.]"
[Photo: REUTERS/Stringer, at Art Daily]
The battle over Pissarro’s Rue Saint-Honoré, après-midi, effect de pluie wages on for Claude Cassirer and his family. On December 14, 2010, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, together with the Kingdom of Spain, filed their petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming that the U.S. District Court lacked personal and subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute over the Nazi-looted painting. Their request comes in the wake of the Ninth Circuit’s determination that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) will not shield the Museum or the Kingdom from liability, where the property in question was seized in violation of international law, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3).
The oil painting originally belonged to Cassirer’s great-grandfather, who purchased the work in 1898. The family was forced to sell the Pissarro in order to escape Germany and the threat of Nazi persecution. The painting eventually wound up in the hands of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
Spain defended the lawsuit, claiming that the FSIA immunized them from suit, and argued that while the statute abrogates sovereign immunity for cases involving property seized in violation of international law, this exception necessarily requires that the defendant be the one to have engaged in the wrong-doing. The Ninth Circuit disagreed:
[T]he plain language of §1605(a)(3) does not require that the foreign state (against whom the claim is made) be the entity who expropriated the property in violation of international law.Accordingly, the Court determined that the expropriation, taken in conjunction with the Collection’s U.S. commercial activity, was sufficient to confer jurisdiction.
Spain further argued that under the FSIA, plaintiffs are required to exhaust judicial remedies in the appropriate foreign forum before turning to American courts for relief. Upholding the District Court’s ruling, the Ninth Circuit determined that neither Congress’ mandate, nor international comity, require judicial exhaustion (you can read the rest of the opinion here).
In an interesting twist, Spain and the Collection recently announced that they have historical evidence suggesting that in 1958, Cassirer’s grandmother entered into a legally binding, court approved settlement, in which the family received current 1958 fair market value for the painting. In exchange, the family agreed to relinquish any future restitution claims.
Although this revelation poses a direct challenge to the substantive merits of the case, the jurisdictional issues remain unresolved. What are your thoughts? Do the federal courts have jurisdiction to hear the suit under an FSIA exception? More importantly, what would a Supreme Court decision mean for future restitution cases brought within the United States?
Rick Norsigian, of PRS Media Partners, thought he made a lucky find at a garage sale in California. For $45, Norsigian bought a number of glass plates which he now believes to be lost negatives of Ansel Adams. PRS began selling prints of the images, crediting Ansel Adams as the photographer. According to the NY Times, these prints have been selling for $1,500 and $7,500.
Unfortunately, Norsigian's lucky find has brought more legal headache than financial gain. This fall, a lawsuit was filed against him and PRS in the California Northern District Court.
When Adams died in 1984, and all of his intellectual property rights became vested in the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. The Trust has denied that Norsigian's garage-sale finds are authentic Adams, and has sued Norsigian and PRS for trademark infringement and violation of right of publicity.
Norisigan has gathered a team of "experts" to help prove that the glass plates come from Ansel Adams. Norsigian's lawyer told CNN that the team "included two court-qualified handwriting experts, a retired FBI agent and a former Assistant United States Attorney." The Center of Creative Photography in Arizona houses the Ansel Adams archives and is considered to be the primary source for authentication of Adams' works. The Center has so far denied authenticity.
William Turnage, the managing trustee, called "Norsigian and those working with him 'a bunch of crooks' who 'are pulling a big con job.'" Turnage went even further, perhaps too far, and compared Norsigian's techniques to those used by Hitler.
In response, Norsigian has counter-claimed for slander (see the NY Times article).
The Trust has been criticized for exceeding its prerogatives, and Turnage has been criticized for "bullying" the new Director of the Center (see this article from Photocritic International). The Trust will try to prove that Turnage's comments have not improperly influenced the Center's authentication work.
Pierre Konowaloff is claiming to be the owner of a painting that was looted by Russia's Bolshevik regime, unlawfully sold to an American collector, and willed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Konowaloff is the great-grandson of a Russian art collector, and the painting is "Portrait of Madame Cezanne", made in 1891 by Cezanne. He filed suit on December 7, 2010 in the New York Southern District of Courts in order to recover the property. Further information on the suit can be found at the Courthouse News Service.
Restitution of Nazi-looted art has been making headlines for quite some time (and see a recent Cardozo Jurist article by Irina Tarsis on the topic), but "Bolshevik-looted art"?
One of Konowaloff's lawyers, Allan Gerson, told Lee Rosenbaum at Culture Grrl that Bolshevik loot should be treated no differently than Nazi loot, because "by the 20th century we had in place international laws and conventions that prohibited the seizure of cultural property without compensation."
According to the Wall Street Journal, the suit also alleges "that the Met "almost certainly" knew that an illegal confiscation had wrested it from its original owner." But the WSJ also points out that Konowaloff had attempt to recover another painting from a similarly well-respected institution, Yale University, and had lost.
According to the Huffington Post, The U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 has seen a steady increase in criminal sanctions over recent years. The U.K. Bribery Act will go into effect in the new year. However, the UK Act will be "far more draconian than its American counterpart."
Who should be wary of the new British legislation? Art dealers!
According to lawyer Pierre Valentin, as quoted by the Art Newspaper, the widespread practice of paying finders’ fees to individuals who bring in new business could constitute bribery under the new Act.
Christopher Battiscombe, director of the Society of London Art Dealers, told the Art Newspaper that firms will have to introduce new training procedures for employees once these guidelines have been published.
Turning the Light Off on Contemporary Art or Flavin is a work of art only when it is switched on. . .
A pdf of the Commission Regulation is available here.
"1. The Art Salon Discussion on Authenticity and the Law.
John Cahill, Donn Zaretsky, and Jo Backer Laird discussed issues involving authenticity of art. The market value of a piece of art depends on its authenticity. . . .
2. The Art Salon Discussion on Things to Know When Buying Art.
Josh Baer and Kenny Schachter spoke about the art market and key considerations for art buyers. They discussed how New York is still a major art center, but how London and Hong Kong have risen in stature. . . .
3. AXA Art Insurance Corporation booth.
Art insurance is available to protect art purchases. The art insurer helps to protect investments and minimize risks. Insurance companies can provide helpful information and effective strategies to ensure expensive art investments remain safe. . . ."
The Art Newspaper reported that "As the notion of art as an asset gains momentum again, the first stock exchange for art—on which clients can buy shares in works from galleries—is due to launch in Paris "in the next few days" according to its website. Based on a stock market model, Art Exchange will offer collectors the chance jointly to own works of art with shares available from between €10 and €100. Participating galleries are currently selling works valued at €100,000 or more, although the exchange intends to lower this figure once the company is established. “Given that we are doing something new, we had to create confidence and credibility in the investor and this is done through having high-class art works,” said Caroline Matthews, the director of operations at Art Exchange. Matthews also hopes the calibre [sic] of works available will encourage naysayers to invest through the exchange. “For some people, mixing fine art and finance goes against their principles, but perhaps they will see things differently in the future,” she said."
For more read all about it in English and Russian.
""Double Denied” is not a story of a prospective student failing to get admission to a prestigious law school: it is an art market nickname describing a cautionary tale about the legacy of Andy Warhol, the most controversial, influential, and prolific artist of the 20th century. The message of “Double Denied” is clear: authentication boards wield great power over art collectors and the art market.
In 2007, Joe Simon-Whelan, a film writer and producer, filed a class action complaint against The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, a not-for- profit corporation established in 1987 (the year of Warhol’s death), claiming that the Foundation was engaged in a scheme of fraud, collusion and manipulation to control the market of Warhol’s works. . . . "
"In his complaint, Simon Whelan alleged that the submission process was a sham designed to remove his “competing Warhol from the market- place.” This was made possible by the organization requiring clients to sign a non-negotiable submission agreement. This agreement contains a broad immunity clause protecting the Board and the Foundation from any and all liability associated with the Board’s ruling. Furthermore, the agreement gives the Board the right to deface the artwork by stamping “DENIED” somewhere on the surface. The agreement also allows the Board discretion to reverse its opinion at any time.
On November 15, 2010, by order of the S.D.N.Y Court, all claims by Simon-Whelan against the Foundation were dismissed. According to the statement issued by the Foundation, the end of the suit was a “complete vindication of both the Foundation and the Authentication Board.” The Foundation admitted to spending about $7million defending what was “nothing more than a . . . shake down.” Simon too issued a statement saying “It is with great regret that I have had to end my lawsuit against the Andy Warhol Foundation. I simply do not have the funds or resources available to fight an organization,. . . spending up to $450,000 per month to defend the case. I have now spent eight and a half years fastidiously gathering scholarly evidence to support my painting, and still firmly stand by all the facts regarding the red self-portraits.""
Many women might go to LA of their own volition, but this one was illegally removed from her home by tomb raiders and smuggled into the city. The Getty Museum purchased her in 1987, without any documentation and despite Museum policies requiring all acquisitions of ancient artifacts to have proof of the circumstances under which they left the country.
In 2004, Getty Director Marion True and her associate Robert Hecht were indicted by the Italian government for conspiracy. This year, True's trial was brought to an end upon expiry of the statute of limitations.
Today, Aphrodite will finally be returned to Italy. Read her story at the Daily Beast. Also returning to Italy is a treasure trove of Morgantina silver. Read about this at the New York Times.
Tondo has provided services to cultural institutions and art collectors since it was founded in 1998. Its Complex Painting Analysis Method (CPAM) combines five techniques to help authenticate paintings: multispectral photography; X-Ray; microscopy; X-ray Fluorescence - Spectroscopy (XRF) examination; and a 3D white light scanner.
It's interesting to compare CPAM with other scientific methods used to help authenticate works. For instance, fingerprinting techniques were given quite negative coverage in the New Yorker this summer. However, it was acknowledged in the article that "The public has long been suspicious of connoisseurship." ARCA seems quite impressed with Tondo's scientific methods.
"Artists, as both producers and consumers in today’s vast image economy, freely adopt and adapt materials from myriad sources. Images culled from the Internet, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, television, films, personal and public archives, studio walls, and from other works of art are all fair game."
Lawyers ask not whether these alterations are "fair game" but whether they are "fair use."
At the heart of the fair use question is whether or not these recycled images actually say anything new. Regina Hackett supports the idea that there is no single meaning in any work of art, and recognizes that different contexts shift our understanding of works. The gallery exhibit does provide a new context, and guides viewers to deliberate over certain issues pertinent to our culture. However, Jen Graves finds flaws in the exhibit's approach, and alludes to the hypocritical attitudes that galleries have regarding remix culture. For example, "The "no photo" signs in the galleries of Image Transfer tell one of many understories beneath the marketing-speak of "our digital age of fair use and open source.""
Last night on the Colbert Report, Steve Martin sought to dispel any misconceptions that he, or that Art, is boring.
Martin was joined by Frank Stella, Shepard Fairey, and Andre Serrano in giving an appraisal of a portrait of Stephen Colbert. Watch the clip at The Huffington Post
Two weeks ago, this blog reported on a reading by Steve Martin at Barnes & Noble. Martin continued on the NY literary circuit to the 92Y, where he and Deborah Solomon held a discussion on ART. As Martin Schneider writes, they spoke about the role of the art dealer in NY, Da Vinci, and even tax law. The audience members at the 92Y were so bored by this discussion that their tickets were ultimately refunded. In a NY Times article, Martin defended the discussion as "lively and entertaining."
This week, the museum censorship issue has caused some excitement! But, Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal remains unmoved, and suggests that art is no longer able to "shock".
What will it take to make art exciting? According to the Guardian, "shocking" films like the Black Swan help make art exciting. And there's always enough stolen Picassos and false fire alarms at museums to prevent any boredom in the art world.
Or is it so simple? The Daily Telegraph reports that, "Claude Picasso insisted that his father would "never" have given such a large quantity of works to anyone." Accordingly, the Picasso family filed a lawsuit at the end of September.
It does seem rather unlikely that Picasso(!!) would let these works escape public attention. The guardian reports that, "Picasso, who rose from penniless Spanish immigrant to one of France's most revered adopted sons, was notoriously reluctant to part with his works, even after they had been sold. In later life he went as far as to bid at auctions to buy them back. He was also aware of his own importance in the history of art and the value of even a hurried scribble on a train ticket."
However, Claude Picasso's insistence is tainted with history. The Daily Telegraph reasons that, "[Claude's] zeal for protecting the Picasso name may be explained by the battle he had to be recognised as Picasso's legitimate heir."
But why would the electrician come forward now, 40 years later, to have the works authenticated? ArtInfo points out that he could not have been waiting for the statute of limitations to run, because no such period exists in France for claims regarding possession of personal property.
Although an admittedly dodgy affair, perhaps the real issue is cultural elitism. Does somebody else have a better right to Picasso's paintings than his electrician? The lawsuit remains pending.
"Despite international efforts to recover displaced art during World War II, museums in the U.S. still fight assertions of ownerships from Holocaust victims and their heirs. The argument that museums make is that claimants waited too long to bring their claims. However, many restitution claims could not have been brought earlier because the property’s whereabouts were unknown and documentation was kept classified on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Today, restitution efforts are on the rise as national archives declassify wartime documents, and stolen art resurfaces on the market. . . ."
MA Case Study: Kokoschka’s “Lovers”
"In March 2009, in its decision in Museum of Fine Arts v. Seger-Thomschitz, a Massachusetts district court ruled that the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was entitled to retain ownership of a painting acquired in the early 1970s. The court held that “the applicable statute of limitations barred any claim.” On October 14, 2010, the circuit court affirmed but stressed that it was not ruling on the legality of the museum’s holding. It noted that “statues of limitations do not vindicate the conduct of parties who successfully invoke them,” and that “for works of art with unmistakable roots in the Holocaust era, museums would now be well-advised to follow the guidelines of the American Association of Museums,” and take all reasonable steps to resolve the Nazi-era provenance status of objects before acquiring them. . ."
New Research Tool for Finding Tangible Evidence and Location of Displaced Art
"Days after the Seger-Thomschitz decision from the First Circuit, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany launched a new e-database of Nazi records and photographs, Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg:
Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume. It contains information about thousands of art objects taken from 200 private Jewish collections in France and Belgium between 1940 and 1944. It is searchable by item, artist, owner. and post-war fate of the item.
Noted historian Sophie Lillie explains, “Museums have no intrinsic, superior right to art over private individuals, and no inherent redemptive quality that justifies the display of looted art.” However, if museums continue to win in court, their property rights will be unaffected by challenges of Holocaust-era provenance."
Conference: Human Rights and Cultural Heritage: From the Holocaust to the Haitian Earthquake (March 31, 2011)
"In March 2011, in affiliation with the American Society for International Law, Cardozo will host a symposium entitled “Human Rights and Cultural Heritage: From the Holocaust to the Haitian Earthquake,” on the topic of restitution. Presenters will no doubt comment on the effectiveness of the new database, the state of pending claims, and the competing interests in stopping or promoting restitution."
Source: The Cardozo Jurist.
Technology needs art. John Maeda told the guardian that design is what enables technological innovations to become integrated into our lives.
And art needs technology. The International Business Times tells us that the creation of an online searchable database will use technological innovation to "help solve the age-old problem of art theft." Preview the National Stolen Art File here.
We look forward to future collaboration.
The NPG was recently forced to remove a short video from an exhibition that deals with homosexuality and has been called "an outrageous use of taxpayer money." But is it really so "outrageous" for an artistic exhibit to touch upon sensitive issues?
Lee Rosenbaum, Culture Grrl, considers both sides of "The Culture Wars."
Blake Gopnik, at the Washington Post, argues that the NPG should have not caved into the pressure.
The controversy has sparked debate in Congress about museum funding: read more at the Huffington Post.
"Accession by Colombia to the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague, 26 March 1999)
On 24 November 2010, Colombia deposited with the Director-General its instrument of accession to the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
In accordance with the terms of its Article 43.2, the Protocol will enter into force with respect to Colombia three months after the deposit of the instrument of accession, that is to say on 24 February 2011."
More Info at Unesco.
The worlds of diplomacy, law, and art converge on the Oegyujanggak, a royal Korean text currently on display at the National Library in France. South Korea has been trying to get the text, looted by French troops in the 19th century, back for years. In a bilateral accord that drew disapproval from the “culture industry” in France, Presidents Sarkozy and Lee Myung-bak, France has agreed return the items on lease to Korea. However, President Mitterand had already agreed to return the items in 1993. As former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine points out the dispute parallels other stories involving national identity, and evinces the same issues debated from Peru and New Haven and Ethiopia to Rome.
More information at The Korea Times.
All of the artifacts — of which there are about 40,000 by Peru’s estimate, and about 4,000 according to Yale — will be returned before Dec. 31, 2012 at the latest. Items in a condition suitable for museum display will be returned in time for the centennial of Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham III’s 1898 scientific discovery of Machu Picchu in July 2011, the memorandum said. Yale will be responsible for all expenses relating to the artifacts’ return to Peru, according to the memorandum."
Visit Yale News for more information.
A federal committee has ruled that the Hoonah T'akdeintaan clan, which was largely wiped out by tidal wave, is the owner of spiritual and artistic artifacts currently held by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Marlene Johnson, a T'akdeintaan elder, started working for the return of the objects after seeing a slideshow of the collection in the 1990s. Most of the items were purchased in 1924 by a Tlingit man who was working for the University of Pennsylvania. The university claims that the ruling may upset the balance between tribes and the museums that seek to protect, restore and share the cultural objects. The museum has offered to give back eight items but the Hoonah want the entire collection. Though disappointed by the committee's finding the university hopes to work with the Hoonah to find a resolution. Johnson, who claims that the clan as a whole never consented to the sale and that as long as one clan member remains alive the items belong to the clan, wants the museum a return of the items and threatens litigation the case in federal court.
For the complete story visit The Anchorage Daily News.