Thursday, 19 March 2009

Artist Resale Right

The Artist's Resale Right was implemented in the UK in 2006 as the result of the EU Droit de Suite Directive which aims to harmonise intellectual property legislation across Europe offering visual artists the same protection as writers and composers. It entitles all living artists in the visual and plastic arts to receive a royalty each time a piece of art work is resold by a gallery, dealer, auction house or agent for more than €1000 (approx £850).

The legislation defines an artwork as "any work of graphic or plastic art such as a picture, a collage, a painting, a drawing, an engraving, a print, a lithograph, a sculpture, a tapestry, a ceramic, an item of glassware or a photograph." It also says that "a copy of a work is not to be regarded as a work unless the copy is one of a limited number which have been made by the author or under his authority."

The resale right covers all works of art protected by copyright which is automatically granted once a piece of work is made in material form and lasts for the lifetime of the artist, plus 70 years after his/her death. However, the British Government has decided to further delay the full implementation of the Artist’s Resale Right which would enable deceased artists to bequeath their royalties to their families and loved ones until the copyright expired - a right long enjoyed by writers and composers.

An online petition has been set up calling on the Prime Minister to review this decision. Please find the link to this below. I hope you will support this, and encourage your friends to do the same.

The royalty is subject to compulsory collective management so artists must register with a collecting society to claim their royalty.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Manifest International Drawing Annual 4

Fran is pleased to announce that her charcoal drawing 'Untitled - Bed 7' has been selected for The Manifest International Drawing Annual 4.

Featuring 100 contemporary drawings selected from over 1100 submissions by artists from across the globe the book will go on sale in September 2009 from Amazon or at

The Manifest Drawing Centre, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, publishes the International Drawing Annual to promote, feature, and explore drawing as a rich and culturally significant art form in the United States and beyond.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Copyright - When is appropriation appropriate?

Borrowing or quoting from an existing work of art is nothing new as artists have been stealing ideas for centuries. In 1873 Manet used part of a Raphael composition as the basis for his work Le Déjeuner Sur L'Herbe, updating their clothing and adding the naked women. Nearly a century later, Picasso paraphrased Manet's work in the extensive series of paintings, drawings, sculptures and linocuts he executed between 1959 and 1961, 'Les Dejeuners'. The current show of Picasso’s paintings at the National Gallery, ‘Picasso: Challenging the Past’, demonstrates his use of appropriation by comparing his work with examples from the gallery’s collection. As Picasso confirmed: ‘Good artists borrow, great artists steal’, but when does borrowing become theft in contemporary visual practice?

The notion of appropriation emerged in post-modern critical discourse in the 1970s and has since become commonplace in contemporary culture, particularly in the music industry through the use of sampling. The term ‘appropriation art’ came into common use in the 1980s when artists addressed the act of appropriating as a theme in art. Influenced by his job at Time-Life the US artist Richard Prince started to use advertising as the subject matter for his paintings in the 1980s, and has since become known for his experimental use of appropriation in his practice.

Prince is currently being sued for copyright infringement by the French photographer Patrick Cariou who claims that Prince used images from his photographic survey of Rastafarian culture in a series of paintings without permission. Prince's dealer Larry Gagosian is also named as a defendant for exhibiting the works in the recent show titled ‘Canal Zone’ in which 20 out of the 22 works featured photographs from Cariou’s book.

Whether this latest lawsuit will have any impact on Prince’s creative output remains to be seen. He has been in trouble before, reaching an out of court settlement with photographer Garry Gross in the 1980s for his use of a picture Gross had taken of Brooke Shields. Undeterred he went on to upset a group of commercial photographers when he achieved international celebrity with his re-photographed enlargements of Marlborough advertisements which sold for millions of dollars.

This case will be important for artists because Cariou's legal team are arguing that the appropriations used in 'Canal Zone' are especially egregious because they are by an artist and not a commercial photographer. If the case goes to court Prince will need to demonstrate that his use of the images was transformative and therefore permissible under the United States’ doctrine of ‘fair use’, which allows for limited reproduction of copyright imagery for the purpose of parody or other creative ends.

Artists in the UK can run into difficulties when their appropriations are of material created for commercial gain by the 'cultural industries' such as the global film, broadcasting, and recorded music industries, who will use intellectual property laws to protect such products from perceived or actual commercial threats, including those perceived from visual artists' appropriating and using such media. Artists who are caught illegally using appropriations of film clips or stills in their work are infringing copyright and may have to pay a fine and serve up to ten years in prison. However, permission for non-commercial use are likely to be given at a low cost if the artist writes to the film or record company and explains the intended use and its relevance to the art work.

With regard to the appropriation of art works, the UK Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 automatically covers an original work of art when it is fixed in a material form until 70 years after the artists death. Copyright law protects the original physical manifestations of an artist’s ideas or concepts, such as the shapes, forms, configurations, perspective, and the colours or lines of a painting.

An artist is only considered to be the copyright owner of a work of art if its shape, form, configuration and perspective (the visual image) is not substantially derived from a work made by someone else; i.e. the artist must not have copied the visual language of another artist.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Public Art: can creative ambition be safe?

A tragic accident at a summer fair in 2006 raises important questions about creative vision and responsibility for public safety when exhibiting works of art that invite public participation.

A jury at Newcastle crown court has found the artist Maurice Agis, 77, guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 after his walk-through artwork broke loose from its moorings killing two women trapped inside and injuring 23 others. The survivors gave graphic accounts of standing on firm ground one moment and then, as the structure took off and turned on its side, of facing a sheer drop before tumbling down and bouncing off the internal columns as they fell.

The giant inflatable sculpture ‘Dreamspace V’, a honeycomb of brightly coloured translucent cells, was caught by a gust of wind that dragged it into the air and flipped it over. Two women fell from the highest point and were killed on impact with the ground. The jury are still considering two further charge of manslaughter of the victims through gross negligence.

Agis has a 40-year track record of making quality public art work. He developed his first solo walk-in sculpture, Colourspace in 1980, an award-winning installation described as "abstract walk-through spaces" which prefigured his work on Dreamspaces. I visited this smaller version at Clapham Common in 2001 and enjoyed walking through the psychedelic tunnels of pure, intense colour.

It was the artist’s ambition of increasing the size of the sculptures that seems to have greatly increased the risk for participants. The prosecutor argued that a suitably qualified and experienced engineer should have carried out proper calculations and tests on the design of the anchorage system. But what sort of engineer is qualified for such a scheme? Nothing else like it has been attempted before; the piece was an enormous 2,500 square metres, about half a football pitch.

This ruling has placed the responsibility for risk assessment on such projects with the artist, but artists are not engineers, they are visionaries who use their creativity to provide viewers with a new ways of thinking about the world. So who is ultimately responsible to assess the safety of interactive art works? What role do venue organisers have in assessing risk to public safety? Should the Health and Safety Executive be involved in such projects and what impact will that have on creative vision and ambition of artists the future?

Have you had experience of producing interactive sculpture and what is your experience of risk assessment?