It’s been a year of everyone suing everyone else, grappling over intellectual property, and spending too much at the auctions. Only yesterday a dispatch box used by Maggie Thatcher sold for £200k plus commission at Christie’s, smashing its initial timid estimate of under £5,000. I watched the sale unfold in which a collective hysteria seemed to drive all punters bananas: most items sold for well over their estimates. Everyone seems to want a piece of history and will stab everyone else in the eyes with their wallets to get it. And not just history – recent sales of that record breaking Modigliani.
Just today we have news of yet another artist complaining that his work has been pinched by Jeff Koons: Mitchel Gray has pointed out that his work used as an advertisement for Gordon’s Gin of 1986 was lifted wholesale by the artist, which it very well appears to be. Interestingly, claims of plagiarism can be made up to three months after the date, though the date can actually be when the claimant first learned of the alleged offence: surely this means many opportunities for artists to go back through reams of work scouting for their own claims to make. Compensatory culture stretches to even the art world.
This year Marina Abramovic was sued by former lover and collaborative artist Ulay. Despite that heart rending moment in which he joined her unexpectedly during her performance The Artist Is Present, seen by many on YouTube, that Abramovic enjoys enormous worldwide publicity and success while Ulay is.. well.. less successful, the timing is curious that he is now arguing she hasn’t credited him properly. It all sounds a little like sour grapes.
Elsewhere, property of intellectual rights and the old chestnut of appropriation took a more Orwellian shade with the case of Luc Tuymans, who was found guilty by a Belgian court in January of plagiarising a photograph of politician Katrijn Van Giel in one of his paintings. Apparently the matter was eventually amicably settled out of court: but the event spells a worrying trend in a more vicious level of bickering over who owns what and who can get how much money for their intellectual rights.
All the while ISIS continue to destroy precious history with mindless abandon, which altogether makes these monetary squabbles seem a little less pressing right now.
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