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27 Mar 2009

Who Owns Commissioned Artwork?

Who Owns Commissioned Artwork?


Monday 30th March
6pm-8pm (Drinks and Networking till 9pm)


Lecture Hall
Chelsea College of Art and Design
Atterbury Street entrance

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History reveals that the relationship between artists, their commissioners and collectors has always been fraught; from Whistlers’ famous dispute in the 19th century with Lord Eden over a commissioned painting that Whistler refused to deliver; to Richard Serra’s failure in the 20th century, to prevent the removal of his site-specific sculpture, ?Tilted Arc’.

Historically, artists have lacked so-called ?moral rights’ in the UK and US jurisdictions to prevent the mistreatment of their artworks once they have been sold and to thereby prevent damage to their artistic reputation. This has contrasted to civil law countries like France and Germany, where artists’ moral rights have been championed.Only in 1988 (in the UK) and 1990 (in the US), did the legal protection of artists expand to encompass the right of authors of original artworks to object to the derogatory treatment of their artworks (thereby protecting their honour and reputation) and to ensure that artists would be correctly attributed as the authors of their works.

Moral rights were at the heart of the recent high-profile case of The Museum of Contemporary Arts, Massachusetts vs. Christoph Büchel (2007). Büchel tried to prevent MoCA, Mass. from exhibiting his unfinished installation after he had abandoned it, claiming that it would damage his artistic reputation. The judge ruled that the Museum could exhibit the work but would need to publish a disclaimer explaining that the work is unfinished. Although this seems like a victory for the commissioning institution, the case raises unwelcome questions about the ethical position of museums and galleries when dealing with the works of artists.

But what could be the consequences of such cases for future art commissions? Will artists be requested to waive their moral rights in contracts with commissioning institutions thereby leaving their artworks vulnerable to derogatory treatment? And what is the position of the commissioner or collector when the artist has died? How far should commitment to the moral rights of an artist go when, for example, an installation is complex and needs the artist’s collaboration and authorisation before it can go on public display?

Speakers include:

Daniel McClean, Withers LLP
Daniel McClean is a lawyer specialising in art law, media law and intellectual property law based at Withers LLP (London/New York). He is editor of 'The Trials of Art' (2007, Ridinghouse) and 'Dear Images: Art, Copyright and Culture' (2002, Ridinghouse). Daniel recently acted for the Haunch of Venison gallery (London) in a trial against HMRC involving the import taxation of contemporary artworks into the UK. Daniel writes about art and art law regularly, including in Frieze magazine and The Art Newspaper. He is also an independent contemporary art curator.

Kate Bush, Head of Art Galleries, Barbican
Kate Bush has been Head of Art Galleries at the Barbican Centre, London since 2005, where she is responsible for an exhibition programme which encompasses photography, architecture, design, modern and contemporary art.Recent exhibitions at the Barbican Art Gallery include On the Subject of War; The House of Viktor & Rolf; Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now; Panic Attack! Art in the Punk Years; Alvar Aalto: Through the Eyes of Shigeru Ban; and Future City: Experiment and Utopia in Architecture 1956-2006.In 2006/7, Bush co-curated, with Mark Sladen, In the Face of History: European Photographers in the Twentieth Century.The Barbican’s second gallery, The Curve, is now home to a programme of ambitious site specific and site-sensitive commissions by significant international contemporary artists. Curve Art has featured major new works by: Tomas Saraceno, Richard Wilson, Jeppe Hein, Marjetica Potrc, Shirana Shahbazi, Hans Schabus, Huang Yong Ping, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and Peter Coffin.Bush was a selector for New Contemporaries 2004 and has judged several major art prizes including the Hasselblad Award (2002), the Spectrum Award (2003) and the Turner Prize (2005).

Prof. Elke Bippus, University of the Arts, Zurich/Switzerland
Elke Bippus is Professor of art history and the philosophy of art at the University of the Arts in Zurich/Switzerland. Prior to her current position, she was Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts in Bremen/Germany. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary art, the theory of representation, and the interface between art and science.She has published widely on concept art, in particular on artistic methods of production in the work of German artists Hanne Darboven and Anna Oppermann. From 2004 to 2007, she was Project Director of ?Art of Research’, a research project investigating structural characteristics of images as well as techniques of artistic production, which question the coherence and principles of legitimation prevailing in the art world. The resulting book, Art of Research – The Practice of Aesthetic Thinking, will be published in April.She is particularly interested in the impact conceptual art practices, which question notions of authorship, originality or the finished artwork, have on the discourse and practices of art institutions - or vice versa, how practices of collecting, categorising and exhibiting have inspired artists such as Maria Eichhorn or Anna Oppermann.

Admission is free, however places are limited. To reserve your place please register and book online via the website.