This week in art news, controversy swirls around one of the art world’s most notorious (and successful) artists, while an award-winning photographer admits that he doesn’t exactly deserve all the credit. The Met Museum and New York City continue to struggle with financial woes, while the art world celebrates the election of new French President Emmanuel Macron as a good sign for the continued economic health of the industry.
Cultural and artistic appropriation continues to be an issue among artists and creatives, especially those who abuse their stature to copy and use emerging artists’ work: Beyoncé, Damien Hirst, and Kylie Jenner – all highly successful, highly visible artists –have all recently made art news covers for using someone else’s work without the artist’s express permission.
What’s permissible under copyright law isn’t exactly difficult to understand, but it is often hard to prove. The viability of recovering statutory damages for copyright infringement is often murky, especially when considering the cost of legal fees and the likelihood that the matter won’t be settled out of court. The prohibitive costs of lawsuits keep many artists from recovering under their rights, which is why we so frequently cover the issue at Art Law Journal. Be sure to check out our articles on copyright infringement for copyright infringement art news and advice on keeping your copyrighted works out of the wrong hands.
Artists Admit to Appropriation, But Is It Copyright Infringement?
Damien Hirst’s Show at the Venice Biennale Sparks Controversy
Damien Hirst’s first major exhibition in years went down at the Venice Biennale, and the show has been surrounded by controversy since its debut. Hirst’s sculpture, “Golden Heads (Female),” is at the center of the backlash, and is one of several works in a show entitled “Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable” exhibited at the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana museums. Hirst was accused by the Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor of copying an ancient Nigerian brass sculpture, “Head of Ife,” without giving it the proper credit and historical background it deserves. Hirst’s office released a statement that said that Ife “was referenced in the work’s accompanying text and in the exhibition guide,” and that the exhibition is a collection of works inspired by a “wide range of cultures and stories from across the globe and throughout history.” Since the sculpture is an ancient work of art, Hirst’s “inspiration” wouldn’t amount to copyright infringement, but that doesn’t exactly make it right. Via The New York Times
Artist admits to stealing from Mary Ellen Mark, others
Photographer Souvid Datta admitted to having plagiarized the work of Mary Ellen Mark, one of the most prolific photographers documenting sex work in India in the 1970s. Datta admitted that he doctored Marry Ellen Mark’s 1978 photograph from Mumbai’s red light district in an effort to claim the images as his own. He additionally admitted that he appropriated Daniele Volpe’s photographs, and to more instances in which he altered and appropriated someone else’s work. Though Datta was an award-winning photographer, his penchant for doctoring images had gone unnoticed until now. He was “discovered” thanks to HuffPost reader Shreya Bhat, who noticed a woman in Datta’s photograph. Turns out was the same woman that appeared in Mark’s 1978 photo. Datta apologized for his actions and used his foolish youth as an excuse. Via Huffington Post
Banksy’s Latest Mural Has Already Disappeared From Site
Just 24 hours after it was put up in Dover, Banksy’s latest mural has been defaced. The image, featuring a European Union flag and a man removing one of its stars, was a metaphor for Brexit, or Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. A tagger has written the words “THE CLASH” with an anarchist ‘circle A’ symbol between the rungs of the ladder, on which the man is standing. The mural was said to be valued at £1 million before it was vandalized. Via Express
Trouble for New York’s Cultural Circles
The Met Museum Continues its Admission Fee Debate
Last week we reported the Met wants to start charging visitors for admission. Turns out, Met officials have been talking to the city about charging admission fees to visitors who live outside of New York City only. This kind of move would be controversial for the institution because under a 1893 state law, they are required to offer free admission “at least five days and two evenings per week.” Even though the museum gets $26 million annual grants from the city, this money only covers about 8% of the museum’s operating costs. Not to mention that the museum is currently facing budget cuts because Mayor de Blasio wants to distribute grants more evenly among NYC’s art institutions. Via Huffington Post
New York Arts Institutions in Crisis Mode
After last week’s good news that the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities’ budgets won’t be cut, another budget re-evaluation is taking place in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio may want to spread out resources more evenly among art institutions, and several major organizations fear they will lose their money to smaller organizations. “I don’t think you need to take from one to give to another,” said Jimmy Van Bramer, majority leader of the City Council and chairman of its Cultural Affairs Committee. We will learn what the administration plans to do in the city’s “cultural plan,” which is to be released by July 1. Via The New York Times
Political News or Art News? Artists Make a Statement
The Art World Rejoices Over the French Elections
The French have elected their youngest president in history this week, and the art world has welcomed him with enthusiasm and relief. Emmanuel Macron’s cultural attitude is not entirely clear, but during his campaign, he wanted to “maintain the current culture budget of €2.7 billion (circa $2.5 billion)” as well as provide students under 18 a €500 voucher for cultural activities of their choice. Dealers are optimistic that Macron’s win will be good for the art market, citing political uncertainty in recent months as an explanation for the slowdown in sales. Via Artnet
Artists Make a Statement on Trump Tower
Four golden pig balloons are to fly in front of the Trump Tower sometime late summer in a one-day public installation, ”Flying Pigs On Parade” by the architectural firm New World Design Ltd. The work is inspired by Pink Floyd’s album “Animals,” which is a tribute to George Orwell’s seminal novel, Animal Farm. Jeffrey Roberts, the firm’s leader, is now trying to collect donations to pay for costs related to the project. If you want to see four golden pigs flying over the city’s most talked-about tower, consider donating by visiting the firm’s website. Via Huffington Post
What did you think of this week’s art news headlines?