Saturday, September 22, 2007

Very Disappointing Decisions

There are two very disappointing decisions behind the ruling by Judge Michael A. Ponsor, who in Federal District Court in Springfield, Mass., concluded that Mass MoCA can exhibit the unfinished work by Christoph Büchel.

The first was the decision by Mass MoCA to take the issue to court. Fighting for the right to exhibit an unfinished work strikes me as more about the institution or its leadership's bruised egos than any higher ideal, like, say, Mass MoCA's mission. Seriously, what's the core message here? Money invested trumps artistic vision?

As I've noted before, I'm not without sympathy for any institution that an artist targets as a patsy in a stunt or fails to live up to his/her side of an agreement with (and I'm not saying that's what Büchel did here...I'm just saying there are instances where an institution is right to fight back against an artist), but such fighting has to stop short of saying it's the institution's decision whether or not an unfinished work should bear that artist's name in the public's eye. If Mass MoCA wants to exhibit the work as a creation of their own but "after Büchel" that's another matter (über-lame, but another matter), but to open the doors to a public, many of whom might not have followed the controversy or understand even the most prominent of wall texts explaining the context, is to willingly misrepresent the work of the artist. And yet, that's exactly what Mass MoCA went to court to claim was their right to do.

The other disappointing decision, of course, was the legal one. I am not a lawyer, and the decision as reported seemed to be limited to the judge's interpretation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 and nothing more, but it's a hair-splitting technocratic decision that ignores the spirit of the law, in my opinion:
Judge Ponsor said that the artist rights act did not apply, in essence because it has no provision to prohibit showing an unfinished work of art simply because it is unfinished.
Here's what the law does say:
the author of a work of visual art-

(1) shall have the right-

(A) to claim authorship of that work, and

(B) to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of any work of visual art which he or she did not create;
which of course leaves open some rather serious questions as to when a mix of materials changes from being just that, raw materials, into a "work," but the next part of the law seems pretty clear to me:
2) shall have the right to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of the work of visual art in the event of a distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work which would be prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation; and
How Posner failed to interpret the finalization of the piece before the doors can open (including important aesthetic decisions like interior lighting and final compositional [and/or safety] decisions that a multi-part, three-dimensional piece like this will surely require) as a "modification" of the work is beyond me, quite frankly.

Mass MoCA seems to be trying to move on now that they've won this decision:
Joseph C. Thompson, the director of the museum, which is in an old mill complex in North Adams, Mass., said in a telephone interview that he was happy with the decision. But he added that his institution would now think long and hard about what to do with the work inside its Building 5, which covers an area the size of a football field and includes such Büchel components as a wrecked police car, a carnival ride rigged with bomb casings, a dilapidated two-story house, a mobile home and a rusted oil tanker.

“We very much appreciate the fact that the court granted us the right to use our discretion and we’ll use it very carefully,” said Mr. Thompson, who added that he would consult with art scholars, people who helped work on the installation and many of the museum’s visitors before he decided whether to open the unfinished installation or dismantle it.

“It’s not a decision that we’ve reached yet,” he said, but added: “Our mission is to help make new work and we’re very anxious to move forward.”
but I'm afraid that long-lasting damage has already been done here.

Labels: ,

65 Comments:

Anonymous ml said...

Is Judge Ponsor trying to prove that he is sufficiently ungrounded in law and the Constitution that he is qualified for the Supreme Court? Ruling for a large, powerful institution over an individual should help.

9/22/2007 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Good call, Ed. I think this thing's gone on way too long. I hope Mass MOCA now opts for sanity by clearing out the space and moving on to the next artist on their schedule.

9/22/2007 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger greg said...

I'm going to disagree with you, Ed. MoCA's motivation for going to court was two-fold.

1) This installation's cost overruns ate up almost 50% of the year's entire operating budget. Without the means to recuperate some of that, MoCA was headed for a financial crisis.

2) Buchel was misrepresenting the controversy in public and to the media (i.e. Boston Globe) and MoCA had to respond. Buchel lawyered up first, btw. He was threatening to sue if MoCA did anything (including dismantling) w/o his permission.

Whose reputation is going to be ultimately tarnished more? I am not sure. Both the Museum and Artist have received far more publicity than ever before over this. But when Buchel is a long forgotten blip on the gallery scene, I'll bet that Mass MoCA is still a viable museum.

And the local rumor is that the piece will simply go away - Is anybody out there in the market for some bomb casings or fake explosives? Call Joe Thompson and make an offer.

Hey that's an idea -

If Christoph Buchel wants to make his point, perhaps he could buy the materials from Mass MoCA, rent some space and do it his way. It would probably be the most hyped and financially successful exhibit in the US in years.

9/22/2007 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'll concede #2 might be a good reason to go to court (like I noted above, I think there are times when an institution should fight an artist) but I'm not privy to the information you seem to be with regards to how Buchel was misrepresenting the controversy in a way that required this court action. I've read a few he-said--they-said type reports, but the appropriate response to those in terms of the museum setting the record straight was not advanced by this court decision as far as I can see.

With regards to #1, I think you're wrong Greg. Mass MoCA is saying they're not decided on whether they'll still show the piece (the only way they'd recuperate the costs, no?). So at the end of it all, they may or may not open the work to the public for the resulting $12.50 ticket sales, but they definitely have their lawyer's fees to pay. Unless they always intended to open up the show to collect the proceeds, #1 doesn't stand as a good reason to go to court, no?

9/22/2007 04:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Artists from Richard Serra to Spencer Finch have been successfully mounting shows on a large scale since 1999 at Mass MOCA, apparently without incident and clearly without legal intervention. And yet I'm supposed to believe that Büchel shows up and suddenly the institution is rife with mismanagement, unprofessionalism, and bad faith. You remember that scene when Luke has to go into the tree on Dagobah and he asks Yoda what's in there? Do you remember what Yoda told him? There you go.

I'm glad that a judge found that VARA doesn't extend to grandiose failures, which is what you get when you pay a quarter million dollars for a roomful of crap and the artist won't sign off on it. If Mass Moca's interested, I have a list of artists as long as my arm who could turn that kind of scratch into a great show.

9/22/2007 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger the expat/pissedpoet said...

At least this ruling will allow us to still hear Schubert's 8th.

The Prima Donna who spat the dummy got his wrist slapped perhaps now the grown ups will prevail and the work completed. Although I won't hold by breath as part of me can't help but wonder if Buchel is becoming a performance artist.

9/22/2007 11:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I entirely disagree.

And reading Roberta Smith got me RED and sad
at how much can people who should know better
can be wrong.


This is a case of abuse from an artist with the good intentions of one of the world's great institution for Contemporary art. I'm astounded that people can't see it through and merely focuss on the desperate attempt of Mass Moca to save their own face. Ohh the peacocks cacklings about an ugly tarp damaging golden artistic integrity. Hello?! Curating as always been about re-framing: welcome to First Life.



To start with, I never agreed with this notion that the work of
art only exists in the artist's mind, and when the artist Decides.
That's a whole other topic, but I found very passé Miss Smith's statement in her recent article about the Mass-Buchel fiasco. End of her story.

There is no copyrights infringement whatsoever in presenting anything from what an artist amass in order to create a work, as a work in progress (Buchel's piece was far from being presented as an intended form at Mass Moca). It is not a crime either if any viewer is able to find or not find anything artistic in the process. And it belongs within the building's logistic rights to put tarps in their museums where-ever they want, frankly. You should visit the Ago in Toronto. Or met any Chelsea gallerist offering seats for people to view the art they exhibit? VERY rare, but that's also the right of gallerists to do the heck they want with their spaces and visitors. I don't think gallery logistics and art mutilation are exactly the same thing though I can understand the temptation to conceive of it as such.

Mass Moca doesn't sell finished works, they are an institution that commission important art pieces and they deal with contracts and promisses. As far as I'm concerned, Buchel simply never wanted to finish that piece (or he would have found a way, if only for the care of his audience). Buchel has been mis-representing himself to the core, here. Buchel merely spoiled the chance for another artist to make something interesting within the space and budget of Mass Moca, and deserves a big slap for that. He's not the one paying here for chris's sake. This is about the right of the producer. Ever been to the movies?? Mass Moca needs its programmation to be fulfilled in order to survive. An artist can do an installation in the middle of Sahara and their artistic integrity will never be harmed, but an attitude like Buchel's is endangering to the people who first presented themselved as admirators of the artist and where ready to push their art to some limit.

Buchel can be a great artist but he should feel ashamed for dishonoring this opportunity by half-assed personal investment (busy installing elsewhere as it seems).


Cedric Caspesyan

9/23/2007 02:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: what Cedric said:

"Mass Moca doesn't sell finished works, they are an institution that commission important art pieces and they deal with contracts and promises".

I don't know the amount of money that changed hands - between Mass Moca, Buchel, and maybe a gallery? or two? more? - but I have to think that some, or a lot, of money and big personalities did. Also, one has to consider artist/board member/museum relationships which further complicates things.

9/23/2007 04:41:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

lame lame lame lame.

I know artist sthat could fill MASSMOCA for 30gs no sweat - mismanagement or no - and still have money left over for a kegger with a band.

No sweat.

One of the problems with this blockbuster culture is the idea that art has to cost a lot or that instalation verite has to include the real thing.

I call bullshit on found busses.

As the Marx Brothers said:
Take the long way home.

9/23/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Henry said...

Martin Bromirski ("anaba") has posted an excellent first-hand courtroom account of Mr Buchel having his ass handed to him. It's posted in two halves: part one and part two.

9/23/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Can anyone voicing hostility toward Buchel point to evidence that he purposely sabotaged this project? Or even evidence that he hasn't suffered as much if not more than Mass MoCA through all this? Where is this hostility coming from?

My initial post on this controversy included speculation that he might be mostly responsible for the breakdown, but borrowing Franklin's model of precedent as presumably persuasive evidence, I'll note that Buchel also has successfully completed many complicated installations himself in other venues as well.

The arguments that some other artist could have done better and therefore should have been chosen makes no sense to me either. It relies entirely on hindsight and therefore strikes me as silly (and hints strongly of jealousy and bitterness, I don't mind saying).

Finally, I'm confused by the notion Franklin expressed here:

I'm glad that a judge found that VARA doesn't extend to grandiose failures, which is what you get when you pay a quarter million dollars for a roomful of crap and the artist won't sign off on it.

Is Buchel supposed to argue that the items brought into the room (massive gallery, actually, but...) were NOT "crap"? Is Walter De Maria to have done the same? Again, why the hostility?

More than that, though, the take away idea from this seems to be that anyone audacious enough to make work that might fail grandly should be shackled with a giant scarlet F if they fail so that the decent towns-artists can sneer and have their moral superiority confirmed by it.

Further implied is the ludicrous idea that had Buchel completed the piece, his rights to keep the museum from modifying the work without his approval would have been kept intact, but because he didn't finish it, because it was a "grandiose failure," those rights must be forfeited.

Again, I can understand siding with the museum in being upset the artist wouldn't do more to resolve the problems and finish the piece. I can't understand (artists especially) celebrating a decision that essentially says an institution can present a work in a way that the artist fundamentally sees incomplete and therefore as mispresenting their vision. Also, who will go see this now? The same folks who rush to see train wrecks I imagine, but how does that advance either the artist or the institution's mission?

I still have a great deal of sympathy for Mass MoCA in all this. It totally blows that they couldn't get Buchel to finish the piece and that it went so far over budget. Seriously, just thinking about that situation is like nails on a chalkboard to a young gallerist. And I'm encouraged that they're going to carefully consider their next move. But I don't understand how this court decision is encouraging to other artists at all.

9/23/2007 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger greg said...

Ed - In regards to the seemingly contradictory motivations of budget breaking and dismantling the project, I can say that the exhibit under tarps has brought in a fair amount of $$$ because of all the publicity.

My feeling is that over the course of this whole sad episode the Museum's directors decided to try and shed the image of a young institution on a tight budget. Hence Mr. Thompson's latest remarks that this was not about money. I don't buy the new line at all.

Regarding your point made to others - But I don't understand how this court decision is encouraging to other artists at all.

For years, hell - centuries, artists have been walking a tightrope between integrity and business. This decision makes it quite clear that hiding behind the shield of integrity, with merit or without, does not relieve you of your business obligations.

As a former stage performer, I say the clearer the legal expectations are, the better. In my latest career evolution (Chef and writer) I wouldn't dream of claiming the rights and privileges that Mr. Buchel has tried to exercise.

And to the commenter who criticized Roberta Smith - EXACTLY! The case boiled down to very simple logic. That is why the decision was so short and sweet. There was no Solomonic hairsplitting wisdom involved. Case law at its best.

However Ed, the next time you're up in North Adams, look me up. I'll buy you a beer and hook you up with the local paper's arts editor. I'm sure he would like to hear a rational voice on the other side of the issue rather than footstomping tantrums that we hear from Buchel's "people". And I think you've done a showing or two around these parts. He'd probably love to write about that, too.

9/23/2007 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Where is this hostility coming from?

In my case, it comes from watching Büchel revealing himself as a self-important little twit thanks to his statement republished on Geoff Edgers' blog in four protracted parts, in which he makes literally unbelievable claims against Mass MOCA and says, nearly in so many words, that art history has been harmed by their incompetence. I prefer to characterize it as derision rather than hostility, but think what you want.

...I'll note that Buchel also has successfully completed many complicated installations himself in other venues as well.

On this scale? I'm just asking, here.

The arguments that some other artist could have done better and therefore should have been chosen makes no sense to me either. It relies entirely on hindsight and therefore strikes me as silly (and hints strongly of jealousy and bitterness, I don't mind saying).

Is that really so hard to understand? If you hired a contractor to do work on your house, and he left it a mess and didn't complete the job after a signficant investment on your part, would you not conclude in hindsight that maybe another contracter would have been a better choice? The only difference here is the question of the rights of the artist. (I'm glad in any case that your contractor can't legally prevent you from showing his unfinished work to your houseguests.) I will ask you, one more time, and only one more, not to attribute motives to me. I can easily discuss what your arguments strongly hint of. You do not want me to do this.

More than that, though, the take away idea from this seems to be that anyone audacious enough to make work that might fail grandly should be shackled with a giant scarlet F if they fail so that the decent towns-artists can sneer and have their moral superiority confirmed by it.

This is an outrageous conclusion. I talked at length with a couple of artists in North Adams (did you?) and they have no illusions about their relationship to the museum or the museum's programming. Leave them out of this. This is about coming in under budget, on time, and delivering great work. Büchel is zero for three here. Deriding that is not moral superiority - it's work ethic. ("Shackled with a giant scarlet F"? Poor baby.)

I still have a great deal of sympathy for Mass MoCA in all this.

Boy, I sure don't. Anyone who thinks that art history is culminating in these late antecedents of mid-20th Century nihlism isn't doing me any good, particularly when they have this kind of space and cash at their disposal. I hope the museum takes a hard look at its programming after this.

9/23/2007 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

, I can say that the exhibit under tarps has brought in a fair amount of $$$ because of all the publicity

Well if that was the motivation behind the lawsuit, congratulations to them on their success. I don't know I'd have more to offer on that here though.

However Ed, the next time you're up in North Adams, look me up. I'll buy you a beer and hook you up with the local paper's arts editor.

Sounds great Greg. Will do. Thanks!

On this scale? I'm just asking, here.

His installation at Hauser & Wirth (details) was comparable I understand.

I will ask you, one more time, and only one more, not to attribute motives to me.

And I'll note again I don't see why you take such statements as personal attributions alone. I knew it was dangerous to quote you and then generalize my response, but seriously, Franklin, can't you see my point in the context of the range of artists responding this way?

This is an outrageous conclusion. I talked at length with a couple of artists in North Adams (did you?) and they have no illusions about their relationship to the museum or the museum's programming. Leave them out of this.

For the love of...by "towns-artists" I didn't mean in the slightest to suggest artists from North Adams (I apologize if that was not clear) but was alluding to the community of online artists rejoicing in this decision (pushing the Hawthornian reference as far as I could).

This is about coming in under budget, on time, and delivering great work.

Under budget? Not on budget?

Great work? That was an obligation here? "Great" as measured by the museum, the visitors, the press? Who would determine that Buchel had failed to deliver "great" work and therefore take him to court over it? You're really reaching here.

I'm not at all sure what this was about (God forbid anyone attribute motives to anyone while you're around). If it's about money only, then I'm not so sure how I feel about it. If it's about reputation then I'm not at all sure what the long term effects will be. If it's about puntative results, then, well, again, congratulations.

I hope the museum takes a hard look at its programming after this.

groan....

9/23/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think it was about what to do legally.

buchel had abandoned the installation and it was six months past the opening date.

they had no option but to go to court. does anybody think that if they had simply called it a loss and removed the materials to a dump buchel would not have sued?

they could not open the gallery, they could not get rid of the stuff... they were at an impasse in which it appeared buchel would be keeping the installation closed throughout the entire run. they had no option but to go to court and seek a resolution.

9/23/2007 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

they could not open the gallery, they could not get rid of the stuff... they were at an impasse in which it appeared buchel would be keeping the installation closed throughout the entire run. they had no option but to go to court and seek a resolution.

That makes more sense, but I haven't heard the museum frame it like that. Have they?

Also, that doesn't quite jive with them saying they're still not sure whether they'll open the doors to it, though.

9/23/2007 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

...can't you see my point in the context of the range of artists responding this way?

Sure, I just don't think you've considered the consequences of making it. You assert that I (or we artists) are motivated by jealousy and bitterness because our comments "strongly hint" at them. How does one respond to that? "Are not!" Well, it's unprovable, and I don't care what people think about me anyway. No, the response is retaliation. "Ed, what I hear behind your comments is a sense of entitlement, and thin-skinned offense that the kind of art that you and your gallery support doesn't enjoy unanimous praise." Or whatever motives I care to read into them. Now you get to defend something unprovable. Presto: flame war.

Great work? That was an obligation here?

No, I'm sure that the museum wanted him to come in and execute something moronic. Of course that was an obligation. At least by somebody's metrics. The museum's, with any luck. Was it a legal obligation? Obviously that couldn't be enforced. The museum didn't go to court over the work's lack of greatness.

groan...

Funny, that's the noise I made in several of Mass MOCA's rooms during my last visit there.

I wonder if anybody on staff thought to himself, "Wow, we brought in an artist known for his antiauthoritarian premises and conflict-laden imagery, and we, like, ended up having a fight with him. Who could have predicted that outcome?" If I were a curator I'd be thinkng, fuck it, let's get an abstract painter in here. (I, personally, would be thinking that anyway, but you get my point.)

9/23/2007 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

Can anyone voicing hostility toward Buchel point to evidence that he purposely sabotaged this project? Or even evidence that he hasn't suffered as much if not more than Mass MoCA through all this? Where is this hostility coming from?

The anaba blog's first-hand courtroom account I linked to above contains excerpts like this one from the judge, who does not seem to have been some kind of Chimpy McHallibushitler Supreme Court wannabe, but actually found the piece extremely moving and powerful -- he claims he "had to take an hour just to settle down" from the excitement of seeing the work, and even "woke up in the middle of the night" still thinking about it -- yet still found the necessity to say things like this:

the author was not here most of the time when the work was being completed... the museum made many decisions

In other words, the judge found Buchel aloof, distant, prejudicial and unrealistic, and found the museum taking more risk and responsibility for the work than just providing an empty space and sitting back to watch the money roll in. Which seems to be exactly the way many artworld observers are reading the situation.

9/23/2007 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Good Topic
Thanks Ed.

Having searched the web earlier when I first read this,I too found
The anaba blog's first-hand courtroom account
It's the best I found,I couldn't find the ruling anywhere, there was a section of the fed court that linked to a pay service that might have had it, and isn't it typical of The Times to not print it or at least post it on their website, just use the snippets or interpret it to their own end, I also read in full the law

and think that Judge Ponsor got it right, on two points
this law does not apply in this case

Judge Ponsor stated that he is "solidly convinced that VARA does not apply to this situation", and that "even if VARA did apply, that what MASS Moca wishes to do does not constitute a distortion to any work of art created by Mr. Buchel".

and he made this stipulation in the event MASS MoCA will display it.

that the museum must include with any exhibition a disclaimer, making no reference to Buchel, that the materials "constitute an unfinished project that does not carry out the installation's original intent."
Buchel has until 5pm Monday to add any language to the disclaimer, after which the museum is free to do what it wants with the materials in Building 5.


but the most interesting aspects of VARA is its exclusions as it doesn't exclude copywright law

from VARA:

Most significantly, the concept of a “work of visual art” does not include the following kinds of art:

(A) (i) any poster, map, globe, chart, technical drawing, diagram, model, applied art, motion picture or other audiovisual work, book, magazine, newspaper, periodical, data base, electronic information service, electronic publication, or similar publication;

(ii) any merchandising item or advertising, promotional, descriptive, covering, or packaging material or container;

(iii) any portion or part of any item described in clause (i) or (ii);

(B) any work made for hire; or

(C) any work not subject to copyright protection under this title.

The impact of the exclusions above is significant since VARA provides that the inclusion of a work of visual art in any of the kinds of uses set forth in (A) is not deemed a “destruction, distortion, mutilation, or other modification” of that work of visual art and thus an artist cannot use VARA to prevent such use. Further, any work that is done by the artist as a work made for hire (see the various articles on my site dealing with that topic. Click on “Articles for Writers and Publishers”) is also not covered by VARA.


(bold mine)
I don't know what to make of that in this case, or any actually.

That's the legal aspect of it, and why I believe Judge Ponsor did a good job is he was conscious that this could have been a far reaching precedent if he sided with Buchel however he states:

"I doubt that this decision is going to have a great deal of precedential value" - "both parties exhibited a fair amount of naivete"... "very few businessmen that would get involved" in something of this nature without a contract - "I don't think what's going on here represents a distortion" - "after monday the museum will be free to exhibit the materials".

and all in all the ruling really says this isn't a matter for the courts, at least not under VARA anyway.
I would also like to add Buchel's attorney did say he would appeal. he asked for a stay, the stay was denied.
also Buchel is lucky MASS MoCA isn't suing him for the quarter million dollars.
not that I think they should or that he should pay it.

So the court decision aside after reading accounts from both sides, I would say they both acted like sniveling children,
However I would say Buchel "started it"? as far as I can make of this Buchel wanted a burntout 737 (pony) MASS MoCA (daddy) said no we can't afford it, Buchel threw a tantrum, ran to court (mommy)said "I want a 737 (pony) MASS MoCA (daddy) won't give me one. The court (mommy) said listen to your father (MASS MoCA).
A text book example of a failed attempt at a classic parent runaround
Ahhh.. just everyone go to their rooms.

then on the other hand MASS MoCA (daddy) did seem a bit sniveling when they said well if you walk away (leave home)you can't have your toys because I paid for them and I'll do what I want with them, unless you pay for them their staying right here in my house.

I believe in artistic integrity, but I know that there are always financial limits, and sometimes those limits force creativity, what ever Buchel wanted to show with a burnt out 737, MASS MoCA didn't say you can't do that, because it will offend families of hijacked plane vctims, a 737 is definitely not something you can come by easily, in fact where would you get one? he could have showed it in another way, unless all he wanted to say is I put a burntout 737 in a museum? that's just being a primadonna, and spiting MASS MoCA. as far as I'm concerned.

I really can't take either side in this, but I have to ask this question If Buchel doesn't sign off on it as a "Piece of Art", are we suppose to reject it as such, because as Henry pointed out The Judge seemed to have had an aesthetic emotion when viewing it, are we suppose to stay away because the art glitterati hasn't given it the seal of approval? Which would lead to a whole different debate. like expat/pissedpoet bringing up Schubert's 8th. So after not taking sides as to the fault of the situation, if MASS MoCA opens their doors and sells tickets to this, thing? the most important question I ask myself is would I go? and the answer really is no because I don't pay for museums, I think they charge far too much although a $12.50 ticket price seems like a bargain (and that's the problem), but if someone gave me their membership free guest pass I still wouldn't go because I couldn't get there, so if they gave me a free guest pass, a ride to North Adams and lunch, yeah I would check it out and I probably would think ehh another cluster f@&k installation, or I would be profoundly moved by it. either way I would still have to give the credit to Buchel, I can't pretend he wasn't the one who conceived of it, would it mean the ideas are up for grab because they are pretty conceptual after all, and some are good,will it be a race to see which artist can get an institution to put a burntout 737 in an installation, will Larry Gagosian do a whole show of burntout 737 on 24th st? Will Buchel get to do another no holds barred installation in the US? And in the end whose reputation is damaged more by this?

and Thanks again Ed.

9/24/2007 04:14:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

The bottom line is that Buchel took a serious risk and failed. This should be OK, artists fail all the time. They should fail more often.

Some artists get hostile when other artists fail because it reminds these artists of the relative lawlessness of their mission and the unstable ground they walk upon, and this is frightening. While it is often easier to disguise one's own artistic mission as work, and talk as if one is a laborer or a contractor or have a job to do, the bottom line is that none of us have these protections of mind, unless of course, we are falling down on the most important part of the artist's "job," which is taking serious risks.

Who knows what Buchel's intent was. He failed. And the court made a good decision about it, because you can't protect artists from failure.

I would like to commend Buchel for failing. Instead of hostility, he should get praise from his community of artists, because he did what artists are supposed to do. He went beyond, and in that way, he delivered.

9/24/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

No, the response is retaliation.

Revealing in so many ways.

By the way (and my point to you repeatedly Franklin), I feel absolutely no need to defend anything I don't believe applies to me. I will jump down the throat of someone who takes true cheapshots at friends or artists of mine, but that's merely my bulldog protector personality. If someone is merely (in good faith) wrong about me, I explain why they're wrong, but, again, feel no need to defend myself for something I don't believe applies to me.

The museum didn't go to court over the work's lack of greatness.

But you wrote "This is about coming in under budget, on time, and delivering great work." Assuming the antecedent of "this" is the court battle, you seem to be contrdicting yourself here. At least the court battle is what I'm talking about in the main post and consider to be the issue at hand (I hope that's clear).


Who knows what Buchel's intent was. He failed. And the court made a good decision about it, because you can't protect artists from failure.

I'm still not clear on why so many people feel the court was right to say an institution can exhibit an incomplete work against the artist's wishes. Could you elaborate?

I can understand feeling Buchel should be forced to make ammends somehow (although I'm not entirely sure I agree), but to say his "punishment" so to speak is to have his failure put on display for the world to view strikes me as Puritanical.

9/24/2007 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

I don't think Buchel should have to make amends, nor do I think he should be "punished."

But he did leave Mass MOCA in a no-win situation, not able to do anything, including dismantle the piece and move on. That's a state of radical disequilibrium that needed to be resolved. I see the court as understanding *that* realworld problem and working to take care of it. I don't see the court as proclaiming anything grander, like the "right to say an institution can exhibit an incomplete work..." Rather, the judge himself said that this wasn't a precedent-setting situation, it was too specific.

Puritanical or reality-based? Buchel did a grand thing, and I support him and his vision. But he busted the bank and either created or stepped into bad will, and didn't wind up pulling it off. This creates a mess, and the mess needs to be cleaned up somehow. Life goes on.

Either emotional response--punish Buchel or protect his vision no matter what realworld problems this creates--misses the point. It is extremely important that Buchel took a serious risk. He is an important artist with huge vision, and should be commended for it.

But it was a risk, with consequences. His vision is not a cloak that protects him from the consequences of his risks.

9/24/2007 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for the clarification Deb.

I guess in all this, I missed that Buchel was preventing the museum from dismantling the piece. How was he doing that?

9/24/2007 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Mmm..

I keep reading here that Buchel failed. I don't see where that is coming from, I agree with fisher6000 that artist should be allowed to fail, that for an artist failure is part of the process, but if the case is that Buchel couldn't complete the work because he couldn't realize his artistic vision then he should have proclaimed it a failure, and humbly walked away, refusing to claim authorship in this case just seems like he threw a tantrum, and what happened is someone outside the art world reminded him the art world is part of a larger civic order, and in that order Buchel isn't a wunderkind, he is just a common citizen. I don't really think he failed, he quit and that's a whole different thing.

So if he did indeed fail all the worse, for blaming MASS MoCA instead of accepting responsibility, and I think that artists have to moderate themselves in this case, and call out Buchel, not just wave the artist flag and blindly or deafly rally behind him, and it should be the institutions that call out MASS MoCA and make sure they stay in check.

I don't think it is the intention of MASS MoCA to punish Buchel just keep their doors open, and meet their operating budget, in fact sometimes failures are more interesting than what artist try to accomplish sometimes, they can be great catalyst for new inspiration if you are open to what the failure has to offer, and if it is a failure it can be of great value to have one of such a large scale on view to the public

9/24/2007 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

As far as I could tell he didn't prevent them from dismantling it, he wanted them to, but MASS MoCA said if he wanted to dismantle it he would have to buy it back. At the heart of it Buchel was suing to have it dismantled and the judge just said VARA wasn't the way to do that

9/24/2007 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Revealing in so many ways.

It shouldn't be. I'm up front about my combativeness in writing. But I've been art-blogging for five years and in that time I've learned that characterization is poison. Forget jealousy and bitterness - last week someone attributed my opinions to an unhappy time in high school. Refusal to examine the arguments under discussion pervades art writing, including the text in the glossies, albeit in a more sophisticated form. (They prefer appeals to authority and jargon, though they will stoop to ad hominems without compunction.) I think that art writing deserves better. The individuals involved, self included, matter to me less than the discussion.

Assuming the antecedent of "this" is the court battle, you seem to be contrdicting yourself here.

Assuming you asked (twice) where the hostility came from in a non-rhetorical manner, I hope I answered adequately.

I'm still not clear on why so many people feel the court was right to say an institution can exhibit an incomplete work against the artist's wishes.

Posnor did require Mass MOCA to "run a disclaimer saying that the project does not carry out the artist's original intent" if they elect to show it, according to the Hartford Courant (via ModKix). The same article reports, "Mass MoCA sought relief in Ponsor's court, asking for guidance about whether it had the right to display or dispose of the unfinished project." If this is accurate, then the museum was trying to generate some kind of a solution without the cooperation of Buchel, presumably not by choice. It continues, "Buchel countersued, seeking financial damages and an injunction against the museum, saying that he was protected by the federal Visual Artists Rights Act..." I don't know what penalties would have gone along with an injunction, but I know what financial damages are. I think the judge decided correctly that this is not what VARA is for.

9/24/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Assuming you asked (twice) where the hostility came from in a non-rhetorical manner, I hope I answered adequately.

Well, I think I'm getting closer to understanding, but I'm still a bit confused on why whether or not Buchel produced a great work would justify hostility from other artists, let alone whether he completed the piece on time or on budget.

I think the judge decided correctly that this is not what VARA is for.

I still disagree. I think preventing someone from exhibiting a work attributed to an artist that that artist sees as not their work is exactly what VARA is for.

Also, I think it's fair to question Posner's grasp of the situation based on his repeated suggestion that Mass MoCA was to potentially be seen as a co-creator of the work. I know he's not expecting this decision to serve as precedent (but he can't totally control that), and really...anyone who commissions a work is now entitled to be considered "the artist" in the eyes of the law as far as VARA is concerned? There's plenty to be alarmed about by this decision, IMO. The least of which is that regardless of what wall text Posner mandated, folks who view the incomplete piece will judge Buchel's vision based on the state that it's exhibited in.

9/24/2007 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I think preventing someone from exhibiting a work attributed to an artist that that artist sees as not their work is exactly what VARA is for.

So VARA justifies the financial damages sought by Buchel? Why?

I hope someone out there can help me understand what his injunction against the museum would have entailed. That they can't display the work? That they can't get rid of it? That they can display it but not attribute it to Buchel?

9/24/2007 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

This is the confusion about VARA

I still disagree. I think preventing someone from exhibiting a work attributed to an artist that that artist sees as not their work is exactly what VARA is for.

It's not about exhibiting the work, rather preventing it being accredited to an artist. MASS MoCA was in essence stopped from doing this.

to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of any work of visual art which he or she did not create
shall have the right to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of the work of visual art in the event of a distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work which would be prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation;

he's one for you Ed in VARA it states
(3)

(B)to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature, and any intentional or grossly negligent destruction of that work is a violation of that right.


What if?
and I mean What if? this is only a fictional antecdote to illustrate a point, nothing more.

What if Thomas Lendavi went insane refused to remove his site specific work from your gallery then dragged you to court citing VARA and requested an injunction preventing you from removing it?

Do you think he has that right under VARA?

9/24/2007 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger prettylady said...

Without taking any sides at all, it seems to me that Deborah has clarified the situation when she said:

he busted the bank and either created or stepped into bad will, and didn't wind up pulling it off. This creates a mess, and the mess needs to be cleaned up somehow.

Courts are a last resort when there has been a complete breakdown in communication. In my experience, it is not at all uncommon for artists to be poor communicators, particularly when financial and legal issues come into play. From the little I understand about this situation, Buchel attempted to retain artistic integrity at the expense of financial and legal responsibility, as well as good communication.

The lesson I, as an artist, take from this brouhaha is that an artist cannot afford to ignore these mundane issues and expect to have other people maintain his artistic integrity for him, particularly when these other people have taken a major financial risk on his behalf.

9/24/2007 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

What if Thomas Lendavi went insane refused to remove his site specific work from your gallery then dragged you to court citing VARA and requested an injunction preventing you from removing it?

Can anyone point to where it's written that Buchel was refusing to let them dismantle and/or show the piece? Also, I'm not sure from any account that I've read that Posner even weighed in on whether Mass MoCA has the right to dismantle it. Everything I've read seems to hinge on the question of whether they had the right to open it up to the public when the artist was insisting they shouldn't.

I'd be happy to discuss my response to a similar situation, but I can't in this instance because the premise suggests the artist is being irrational ("went insane") and I think we'd be comparing apples and oranges here.

Say some other artist, whom I didn't know or trust as I trust Tom, were to put the gallery in a similar situation. My response would be to ask my lawyer to handle it as quietly and respectfully as possible, keeping my eye on the larger picture of how other artists I may want to work with will interpret my actions if it turned into the media fiasco this has, how collectors and other visitors might change their opinion of us, and how I myself want to operate the gallery with as artist-centric a philosophy as possible. If the artist made it impossible to keep it quiet, then I would publicly ask the artist how he/she would like to resolve the situation. I assume some conditions would meet their approval, and I'd negotiate an end acceptable to all from there. I'm not implying Mass MoCA didn't try to do this, but I'm answering what I would do.

If all that failed, then I don't know what I would do.

I cannot imagine under any circumstances, however, agreeing to let any resulting court case that might be necessary include the claim that the gallery should have the right to exhibit work the artist clearly hasn't finished. To what end? To highlight my failure to negotiate a settlement to everyone's satisfaction? To try to earn back what I invested (I don't charge admission, so I'd be exploiting the artist royally by using this to sell other work, IMO), only to tell other artists they can expect the same response from me in the future? At a certain point you have to cut your loses and move on.

9/24/2007 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous twhid said...

Ed said: Can anyone point to where it's written that Buchel was refusing to let them dismantle and/or show the piece?

My understanding is that they would allow it to be dismantled only if Buchel paid for it:

MASS MoCA offered him the opportunity to remove the materials, reimbursing the museum for their actual cost, which he also refused. source: MASS MoCA

Which, it could be argued, basically prevented him from removing it because he didn't have the money to remove it or didn't want to spend the 100s of thousands of dollars to remove it.

Why didn't the museum allow him to remove it for the cost of removal? It sounds like they were holding the unfinished work hostage in an attempt to get him to finish it.

They both tried to play hardball and everyone else loses. Thanks MASS MoCA and Buchel!

9/24/2007 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

My understanding is that they would allow it to be dismantled only if Buchel paid for it:

I guess a bird in the hand is worth more than nothing in the gallery.

I got an email from one of Buchel's lawyers, Donn Zaretsky, who wrote:

"we have been begging the museum to dismantle the work for months, and they refused. See, as one example, footnote 3 of our moving brief ("Buchel has no [objection to taking down 'Training Ground for Democracy' and putting its components in a landfill) and, in fact, believes that the foregoing is part of the appropriate remedies to which he is entitled. Simply put, MASS MoCA can -- and should -- remove the unfinished 'Training Ground for Democracy' from Building 5 and dispose of it.")."

So it's crystal clear that Mass MoCA was not arguing in court for the right to dismantle it, but the right to exhibit it unfinished. They were not stuck without the option to move on here, but rather wanted to be compensated by the artist to do so.

From a bargaining-chip point of view or bottomline point of view, I understand this decision. But as I've said repeatedly, I feel the museum lost sight of the bigger picture. Unless they're playing this for all the publicity they can get (and there are good forms of publicity and bad forms), I don't see the logic.

9/24/2007 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Maybe they're trying to make an example of Büchel. Maybe they want to make it clear that if you take a bunch of their money and make a big mess and then abandon it, they're going to drag you over the coals for it. And, really, what would annoy an artist more than showing a failed work without their permission?

9/24/2007 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no, it's not crystal clear.

it sounds like donn is saying they did the begging to dismantle only AFTER the museum took the artist to court.

9/24/2007 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Anonymous,

what connotes that chronology to you?

And even if Buchel agreed to dismantle the work only after Mass MoCA took the matter to court, that would still mean Mass MoCA wasn't arguing for the right to dismantle it in court. The artist had already agreed to that.

9/24/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

My response would be to ask my lawyer to handle it as quietly and respectfully as possible

and I would say you would be handling it in a reasonable manor and if you maintained that reason there is a good chance it would get resolved civilly.

I only threw in the Tom goes crazy scenario to prevent you from saying right off the bat Tom wouldn't do that, and I apologize to Tom.

At a certain point you have to cut your loses and move on.

I agree with that, problem is both sides played chicken and went over the cliff. Nobody wins self destruction on both sides. with so much on the line imagine the pressure both sides were under, its not hard to understand the meltdown.

exhibit work the artist clearly hasn't finished. To what end?

again that is another discussion the question is rights the problem with the law is once a precedent is set it becomes black and white.

want to do an experiment tell artists there a collector looking to collect unfinished abandoned work, and is willing to pay their full market rate, a chance to empty out their storage and earn money in the process.

What do you think would happen?

first question half the artists would ask

Do they have to be painting I already have started or can I start new ones and abandon them?

so they sell them,

two years from now they have a breakthrough and their art is in high demand they show in blue chip galleries, now should they have the right to stop the collector from exhibiting their work because they are ashamed they sold the paintings?

another example:

what if there were an artist (a) that went to other artists (b) and asked them for their abandoned paintings, then finished them in their own style leaving enough of the artists (b)painting in tact, now artist (b) get famous and artist (a) now wants to exhibit the painting and use (b)s name clearly to increase the price?

They both tried to play hardball and everyone else loses. Thanks MASS MoCA and Buchel!

at least it has created a healthy discourse and for the most part what I read is pretty civil, mostly as Franklin asks, what exactly was who trying to get who to do or not do, and who did what? at five o'clock we'll know if MASS MoCA decides to exercise their right to be reasonable and not open to the public the contents of Building 5 gallery.

9/24/2007 03:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"what connotes that chronology to you?"

your quoting of donn's private e-mail - "we have been begging the museum to dismantle the work for months"

a. the use of we, indicating donn's involvement..

b. the indeterminate "months". can donn please provide an example of buchel "begging" for the materials removal previous to being taken to court at the end of may?

"that would still mean Mass MoCA wasn't arguing for the right to dismantle it in court"

no kidding.

i know you don't take criticism well, but it also appears that although you are trying to take great pains to appear objective, you have also been only too eager to swallow everything that donn has been spooning you.

9/24/2007 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Edward:

>>>Can anyone voicing hostility toward Buchel point to evidence that he purposely sabotaged this project?


Just simple deduction:

- asked for impossible amounts of money (more than double the budget). Not a penny seems to ever come from his pocket (unlike other cases where artists put themselves
near bankruptcy to realize their art: Koons, Serra, etc..).

- never came in person but once to supervise the project.

- asked for Mass Moca to find people to perform near impossible deeds for him like sawing the nose of a boeing, bringing it to the exhibit place, and attach it upside down the ceiling, this after many near-impossible deeds had already been executed by the museum staff, like entering a whole house in the goddam site.

- obviously rejects the museum proposal to find ways to alter his project and make it more realizable.



>>>Where is this hostility coming from?


From reading voices whose opinion are somewhat respected in the artworld write things like "Very Disappoingting Decisions". I first wanted to write to Roberta Smith, but couldn't find a email, so googling I found the blog of Buchel's lawyer who was quoting this blog, which brought me back here.



Toujours Edward:
>>>The arguments that some other artist could have done better and therefore should have been chosen makes no sense to >>>>me either. It relies entirely on hindsight and therefore strikes me as silly (and hints strongly of jealousy and bitterness, I >>>>don't mind saying).



You're way way way out of your hat there Edward.


If I'm jealous of anything it's of people, bloggers, journalists, who are able to express themselves
well and whose opinions I resent are strongly valued, way more than the artist himself. A few years ago, I wrote in a few places how the installation that Buchel did at Swiss Institute was among my top
favorite pieces of the early millenium. I was actually a big fan of him and was totally excited about the idea of visiting the Mass Moca. I just came back from New York because I wanted to visit
the piece by Mike Nelson (Creative Time) which borrows a similar aesthetic, and always have
been a strong supporter of canadian artists BGL who do similar encompassive installations (here in Quebec). Buchel totally left me down as an art lover, and he did it at my favorite museum ever (Yes Mass Moca: I heart you). So that's my bias, that's where I come from: I've been dumped, I'm broken hearted, and I'm pissed off.

As far as calling people silly, it's funny because I visited Chelsea recently and I thought exactly that: that there had to be some serious lack of sillyness in there so much the art bored me (exception: Tyson).

YES, Mass Moca could have give 300 000 to another artist, in the sense that I don't think any other institution should ever offer 300 000 to Buchel again following this disaster. My suggestion to him is: sell small pieces, than pay your big installations yourself,
and do them away from institutions. Than maybe later you can get respect again.
I'm on the side that Buchel disserviced himself with this more than the museum. It will not be a tragedy either if I'm wrong.





>>>Again, why the hostility?


Because you don't bite the hand that feeds you when so little hands does in the artworld,
where everything is at constant war. If you can't do a piece with 300 000 dollars
than your heart isn't really there. It can't be. His heart was in the 80 000 pounds UK installation,
don't kid me. He didn't have the energy to do two pieces and he probably thought London
was more important than some New York village. That's 300 000 dollars cultural waste
of your tax money, isn't it?



>>>>might fail grandly

Buchel never failed, he abandoned the course before getting an F.
Failing is a whole other issue. You need guts to face failure. Buchel ran away from it.




>>>> keep the museum from modifying the work without his approval

Placing tarps is NOT modifying the work. It's logistics. A museum has the right to let people cross a room to see another exhibit in another room in the back.

Tarps are NOT part of the installation, and were NEVER presented as such.
I'm glad that people (it seems) were able to make sense of this in court (and the opinion above would have been my stance have I been a jurist for this case).





>>>> I can't understand (artists especially) celebrating a decision that essentially says an institution can present a work in a >>>>>way that the artist fundamentally sees incomplete and therefore as mispresenting their vision.


The museum never did that. They put tarps. Ann Hamilton adjusted herself when she found out she couldn't let paper fall on the floor above knee level. What is shocking here is how Buchel refused to find ways to complete a work that was so advanced. And how he let down the people who had worked for it. It's different from
doing a canvas in your living room, this work implied a lot of people, including an important amount of work I'm sure was benevolent. Sometimes it's just ethical to "be there", and it sounds to me like Buchel visits were far apart and quick, considering all the people his art involved. I studied in Cinema and I've worked with crews of people (that I directed),
and what Buchel did stroke a chord in me about an immense lack of responsability. I have personally failed. I did a lot of awful stuff and probably will never be respected as an artist: but I never let my people down. That's where my rock comes from.



>>>>I don't understand how this court decision is encouraging to other artists at all.


Fucker Artist Out = Good Artist In: a lot of artists crave for this opportunity (a football field site, I mean).



Franklin quoting Buchel:

>>>art history has been harmed by their (Mass Moca) incompetence.


I must be an idiot because Mass Moca has been installing some of my favorite art pieces in recent years, the art thoroughly supported by series of pamphlets that they adorn their walls with,
and I always found the staff working there quite charming and devoted. To me they are the perfect museum.



>>>>I'm glad in any case that your contractor can't legally prevent you from showing his unfinished work to your houseguests


Bingo, Franklin !
Art should not be so precious.
I just saw unfinished Renoirs in
the landscape retro in Ottawa (that is in Philadelphia
soon). Ok so: they're unfinished. So what? The public can make their own judgment.




Toujours Franklin (off topic):
>>>>>>these late antecedents of mid-20th Century nihlism isn't doing me any good


Well, I don't know: is new german painting, or chinese esoteric art, nihilism?





Anonymous (topic back on):
>>>>does anybody think that if they had simply called it a loss and removed the materials to a dump buchel would not have >>>>sued?


Exactly, Of course he would have, he menaced to do it. It would have been better if Buchel just burned down everything in a mega-performance and free the museum to improvise with other artists. I think by letting the stuff there he put the museum in a difficult position. It was like pure taunt.



Franklin (off topic):
>>>let's get an abstract painter in here.


Well, do you like Matthew Ritchie?




Henry (topic back on):
>>>>the judge found Buchel aloof, distant, prejudicial and unrealistic,


Well I'm just glad justice is able to make sense. Sometimes
I think artworld people are out of the loop with common sense.
I don't think Art is worth all the lunacy. Like "Don't touch that Serra!" (heard at Moma). That's lunatic: there's tons of rain that's going to fall on those goddam pieces !





Joseph:
>>>>put a burntout 737 in a museum?


At this point, with any difficult parts of a project, please artist:
get a little more involved ! Find the darn object yourself (Duchamp(s)), cut it yourself (Matta-Clark), be present for safety at installation (Serra), or pay for its construction with your own money (Koons).



Joseph:
>>>>The Judge seemed to have had an aesthetic emotion when viewing it,



I get an emotional response just from reading the idea: seeing a scene of urban chaos
from the point of view of a cinema auditorium before crossing the screen. That was terrific on paper !!!


Joseph:
>>>I still wouldn't go because I couldn't get there

Pouhahaha can someone please take him on a ride there? There's a train to Pittsfield, than a local bus there that takes an hour and a half, but yes it's a pity to not have a car to go there.



Fisher:
>>>>The bottom line is that Buchel took a serious risk and failed.


He didn't have the balls to fail, that's what I think. That's also quite cutesy and human and all, but there's a diff.



Edward:
>>>>to have his failure put on display for the world to view

Well given that the work will never see day, I think it was a fantastic opportunity to get a glimpse of how great the work could have been. I think people are intelligent
enough to draw the line and complete the work in their head. It's not like the audience
accepts the tarps as part of the work. You're insulting Mass Moca's public (aka Me)by presuming so. Though if they did it wouldn't exactly be
an antithesis to the aims of the piece. I won't go to Mass Moca this year but I totally support Mass Moca's decision. If I was the artist I would even go back
to see how it looks like. Tarps around my work? Hey why not?
I would have asked Christo to do it and call it collaborative.
Mind you, some art teacher have accused me of lacking self-respect
for similar arguments.



Fisher:
>>>>I don't see the court as proclaiming anything grander, like the "right to say an institution can exhibit an incomplete work..."



Ok everyone. Enough: go see the incomplete Renoirs in Philadelphia. QUICK !!




Joseph:
>>>>>they can be great catalyst for new inspiration if you are open to what the failure has to offer


Yes, I'll take a 100 Buchels any day over, say, hmmm....which artist should I bitch this time.....
ok, I'm sorry but....over a 100 Pettibons. (Ouch ! No sorry I had to say it cos...we are seriously
close to getting a 100 Pettibons)



Franklin:
>>>>last week someone attributed my opinions to an unhappy time in high school.


I became a bitch since I'm handicapped and can't find a chair in Chelsea.



Edward:
>>>>anyone who commissions a work is now entitled to be considered "the artist" in the eyes of the law as far as VARA is concerned?


I see art transformed everyday by simple curatorial statements.
At least Mass Moca actions will be remembered as going along
with what the artist intended to demonstrate. It's a fantastic and
lovable disaster after all.




pretty lady:
>>>>these mundane issues


300 000 dollars from a non-profit museum isn't mundane !!!!???



Edward:
>>>>>the claim that the gallery should have the right to exhibit work the artist clearly hasn't finished.


Like you said, don't compare apples and oranges. There is a difference between a gallery that changes
exhibit every month, and an institution with the reputation to deliver a gigantic costly installation each year, and whose
only way to sustain themselves is when they are visited. The Mass Moca action was about its survivance. You art people have no heart: you'll take the side of aesthetic resolution over the face of a starving man any day. Phew.



Twhid:
>>>>My understanding is that they would allow it to be dismantled only if Buchel paid for it:


Logic: we need money. If you don't buy it back (so we can do something else), the show must go on and we need to present something to visitors. That's why they'll probably keep the tarped version. The fight was not about Buchel's piece but about keeping the museum open and keeping true to their reputation of (cough) at least attempting to present one large piece each year because most of the visitors visit Mass Moca for exactly this reason.



Chris:
>>>>what would annoy an artist more than showing a failed work without their permission?


Buchel had like, 8 months to come back and arrange something that he would tolerate be shown to the public. He had this huge room and opportunity and he didn't care. If he'd care about his public he would have settled something. Who cares about some quarrell with museum staff? There's a public out there waiting. But Buchel used it (us) to pressure the museum to go over the board. Can't you see? I would feel totally different about this if he came and said "well, I can't do it, I'm too poor and can't find the funds".
But, it's the way that he used Mass Moca's half-ready installation and near-opening dates to pressurize the institution.
That's evil.



Joseph (about unfinishing his art):
>>>>can I start new ones and abandon them?



Who said that an art piece is never finished but always abandoned?

(Gosh, I hope not Picasso, that's just too cliche)




Cedric Caspesyan
(can be sued at centiment@hotmail.com)

9/24/2007 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

this is a response to anonymous, not Cedric, whose comment will clearly require a good 10 spare hours to work through ;-)

Anon, you "know" I don't take criticism well?

Is that you, Mom?

you have also been only too eager to swallow everything that donn has been spooning you.

Come now, you have absolutely no idea how much information the players involved in this controversy are "spooning" me behind the scenes, and so are in no position to judge how much I'm eager to swallow or reject.

My particular point here has been to try to get to bottom of whether or not Mass MoCA's suit, as at least two folks have suggested, was neccessary because 1) they couldn't dismantle the installation AND 2) they couldn't exhibit it. If that had proven to be the case, I would have felt very different about the decision, but, as even you agree, that wasn't what was being fought over in court, the only thing they seemed to be fighting for in court was the right to exhibit the piece in its incomplete state.

9/24/2007 08:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Come now, you have absolutely no idea how much information the players involved in this controversy are "spooning" me behind the scenes"

okay, fess up. why are you holding back? who has contacted you, and how much? we know you have been contacted by zaretsky, both previous to and following the ruling. have you also been contacted by the artist, the museum, or skadden lawyers?

9/24/2007 09:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Like I said, unprovable.

(I've tried to use the "Hi Mom" line too, but for some reason I don't feel like I can pull it off.)

9/24/2007 10:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Did Hauser And Wirth dropped Buchel?

No. They even paid him a full installation while he abandoned another.

Now...That's bizarre.


Something tells me it's just a gallerist thing to defend the artist's right to the bottom of his finished product.

By glorifying Buchel's right to artistic integrity, Edward could be defending his integrity as a gallerist towards the artists he represents and must care for.

But I think that when someone commissions a piece it gives them a little rights too, whatever they are. I don't think artistic integrity is ever supreme unless when the artist pays for all his work themselves.

In cinema, authors try to self-produce to evitate these problems. You see mentions of Director's Cut VS Hollywood Cut everyday. The Mass Moca thing is simply an Hollywood Cut, nothing prevents Buchel from attempting his own Director's Cut.

With the so little impact that visual arts have on the world these days, it goes beyond me that people could imagine the artworld to not have to follow standard civilized rules happening in other fields (ie, Producer has a say).

Probably why I constantly hear of galleries being sued by Tax Departments.

Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan

9/24/2007 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...

Wow. From an outsider's perspective, it seems there's a whole lot of factionalism going on here. It looks like this case is just an excuse to have the latest battle in a completely different war.

9/25/2007 02:12:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

You're very wise David. Yes, it's exactly that. Like Oscar Wilde noted, every critique is essentially an excuse to turn the conversation to a much more interesting topic to the critic: himself.

By glorifying Buchel's right to artistic integrity, Edward could be defending his integrity as a gallerist towards the artists he represents and must care for.

I actually felt much more strongly about this issue (i.e., that an artist gets to say when it's "art") before I opened the gallery. Not that my opinion has shifted much, mind you, just that I have a greater appreciation for the demands of running a space now.

But that raises an interesting question to my mind. Do artists siding with Mass MoCA feel that an unfished piece is still "art" if an institution decides to call it that (if only by exhibiting it in their "art" museum)?

Okay, fess up. why are you holding back?

There are not enough hours in a day to take this where you'd like it to Anonymous. Nor is everything someone writes to me in private your business to know. That's all I care to share on that.

Like I said, unprovable

antecedent?

I've tried to use the "Hi Mom" line too, but for some reason I don't feel like I can pull it off.

One often simply doesn't know. Sometimes you put stuff out there and have to wonder: are people chuckling in response or rolling their eyes? In the end, it hardly matters. The medium (at least the comments end of it) is mostly about the immediate...go with your gut, I'd always advise.

9/25/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Edward:
>>>Do artists siding with Mass MoCA >>>feel that an unfished piece is >>>still "art" if an institution >>>>decides to call it that


Each case is different, but when you amass a thousand objects with half of them installed, it's hard to deny that the work is "in progress", which is how the Mass Moca wanted to present the work.


The original idea was "we need to open the doors, let's hope Buchel comes in and finish the work while the exhibit is on". There is nothing wrong with that, tons of artists these days will create their work over the course of exhibition time. Buchel had plenty of time, and Hauser + Zwirth could have payed the missing money instead of waving honey for Buchel to flight to London to realize what I presume was a lesser work than a 400 000 could afford.

The irony is I thought during the whole duration of this affair: "Why can't Buchel's gallerist or collectors help him find the money to finish the goddam piece?". Then Bravo: I hear about this new 80 000 (pounds) installation. What a fantastic gallerist move ! Hurrah for the protection of artistic integrity ! Those people totally deserve a spank as far as I'm concerned.

Cedric Caspesyan

9/25/2007 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger prettylady said...

Okay, I would like extract the comment of Cedric's that struck me most forcibly, out of all that...

Why the hostility?

Because you don't bite the hand that feeds you when so little hands does


Exactly.

9/25/2007 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

OK, but unless you're the hand that's been feeding him, how does that result in hostility for you personally?

I'm pushing at this for a reason, not just to be my usual obstinate self.

9/25/2007 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger greg said...

OK, but unless you're the hand that's been feeding him, how does that result in hostility for you personally?

... jumping back in towards the end of a terrific discussion... I am pissed at Buchel because he screwed an institution that I, personally, care about and is the civic catalyst of the small town where I reside. $$$ and principle - that's my dog in this fight.

And cedric's long comment might be the most emblematic summary of the current situation.

BTW, Buchel's appeal has delayed any action by Mass MoCA. That's the latest I've heard through the local grapevine. I have no idea if Buchel's appeal will entitle him to an injunction or not. MoCA is officially mum.

There isn't much time to show the stuff or dispose of it before Jenny Holzer's piece comes through the doors.

9/25/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Okay, fess up. why are you holding back?

There are not enough hours in a day to take this where you'd like it to Anonymous. Nor is everything someone writes to me in private your business to know. That's all I care to share on that."

Franklin is right about one thing, you ARE attributing motives. I have no idea what you are thinking and don't care, but am curious, as you brought it up, which parties have contacted you.

Zaretsky - yes
Buchel - ?
Mass Moca - ?
Skadden - ?

Yes or no.

9/25/2007 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

move on, anonymous.

9/25/2007 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger prettylady said...

OK, but unless you're the hand that's been feeding him, how does that result in hostility for you personally?

I, personally, have no use for hostility at all; it's too exhausting.

However, I can certainly understand it, and have unwillingly harbored it in the past, because:

1) People tend to generalize from the specific to the whole, and any artist who behaves badly in a high-profile context is doing all of us a disservice. This is, of course, an unfair onus to place upon anyone, but the fact remains that there are a lot of nice people out there who Don't Like Artists, because of just such an encounter, or ten.

2) It is galling to see someone rewarded for behaving badly, while those who work hard, do excellent work and behave courteously and considerately are summarily ignored. It makes one Question One's Upbringing.

3) Having run a gallery myself, my hand has been bitten numerous times.

The fact is, egotistical, narcissistic and inconsiderate people absorb the vast majority of available time, money and attention when they get involved in any project; this is true whether the egotist is a genius or a hack, and the opportunity cost for everyone else connected is the same.

As you know, I am in no way a zero-sum economist; I do not believe that someone else's success takes away from my own. But oftentimes, in the short term, the energy drain from a stampeding narcissist can cripple everyone around them, and this to me is a major concern which is all too often brushed aside as 'sour grapes' or 'whining.'

9/25/2007 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

You're the one attributing motives here, Anonymous. Ed_'s views are his views regardless of who has contacted him and whom he sides with. I second his request that you move on.

9/25/2007 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

It is official: Mass Moca are taking everything down as we speak.
No one will have seen anything but the tarps, so it's more like saying no one have ever seen this work as far as I'm concerned.

But Buchel is attempting an appeal.
Oh, whatever...



Edward:
>>>unless you're the hand that's been >>>feeding him, how does that result >>>in hostility for you personally?


I'm just hostile by nature.


Serious: I was a big fan of Buchel. Also, as mentioned, Mass Moca is sort of my favorite museum, so I took this case at heart from the very beginning.

Buchel's attitude specifically disappointed me in context of the type of works he did. Somehow the work spoke of a very different persona: socio-reactive, communal, whatever. I'm sorry to say I didn't expect all the "Précieuses Ridicules" whining from Buchel, but it's unfortunately the sort of things I hear about everyday that makes me cringe about the artworld and encourage me to avoid it.

So maybe it's not so much the artist himself than something that he represented about a lot of other artists? In fact, I'm pretty sure I'd be the first to visit a Buchel exhibit if he ever showed here again, but I would certainly be more suspicious about the socio-political aspect after he let all his crew down at Mass Moca.



In the end that is also what hitted a big nail for me: it's the amount of people and work that had been achieved. I'm pretty sure Holzer
would drop and we wouldn't wince. The logistics can't be compared
(or we'll see, you're welcomed to impress me, Jenny).


Chers,

Cedric Caspesyan


(ps: this said Jenny is able to resume a whole Buchel show in one sentance, so it's irony that she would follow Buchel)

9/25/2007 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cedric, i am glad you are back and well.

9/25/2007 11:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Well, I'm totally charmed:
Thanks anonymous! ;-)x


Ced

9/26/2007 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mass Moca Director Joe Thompson's e-mail sent to and posted on Richard Lacayo's blog -

"You should know that many of the characterizations of Judge Ponsor’s rulings – especially those being bandied about on attorney Zaretsky’s blog – are, in our view, just plain wrong. Like Zaretsky, I was in the court, but I took notes. The court most certainly did not rule that VARA (the Visual Artists Rights Act) does not apply to unfinished work. Nor, I hasten to add, did we ever argue that VARA does not apply to unfinished work. (Indeed, our counsel expressly pointed out to the court at the hearing that VARA does indeed apply to unfinished work, and that we had never disputed that.) To say the least, it’s frustrating to us to see it suggested otherwise.

What we did argue is that VARA does not prohibit all display of unfinished works of visual art, simply because they are unfinished. This makes common sense: unfinished art is frequently displayed.

The judge ruled that the Copyright Act and VARA did not bar the museum from displaying the materials in our gallery in the manner we proposed, i.e., with a notice making clear that the viewer was not seeing a finished work. The judge went further and suggested that there was almost no value to this case in determining precedent in future VARA cases because the ruling depended on facts that were in the record before him regarding the specific working arrangements between MASS MoCA and the artist. (I don't want to put words in the judge's mouth here — he indicated that he intends to issue a written opinion in the next couple weeks, and you should look to that when it comes out.)

In my view, about the only lesson one could draw from the judge’s narrow and carefully articulated ruling was that if you are an artist who agrees to undertake a complex project like this, and you take advantage of considerable human and financial resources from an institution helping you realize your intentions, and then you up and abandon that project mid-stream, leaving behind materials in a public institution, then there are consequences of that act.

In other words artists do have rights, but so to do the people and institutions who support them in their work. And if both artists and museums have rights, then they also have shared responsibilities. It’s actually quite simple. We were pleased that the judge declared that decisions regarding the ultimate fate of materials abandoned in our midst were up to the curatorial discretion of the museum. Having been granted that right, we tried to exercise it with the same standard of care evidenced when we preserved those materials in our gallery pending the court’s ruling (rather than taking some sort of unilateral action to display or dispose of them), and when we shielded them from public access and view during that same period."

I'm re-posting it here because all we seem to be getting is the Zaretsky supplied info.

9/26/2007 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for sharing that Anonymous.

As Mr. Thompson notes, given how much confusion there remains about what the ruling did actually mean and how everyone seems to be willing to interpret it to suit their own pre-trial positions, it's perhaps best to wait for Posner's written opinion at this point.

As for the chip on your shoulder about where the info here comes from, feel free to start your own blog and let us know where it is.-

9/27/2007 08:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chip? You were asked straight-out from whom you were being contacted (after alluding that you were being contacted by more than one party), and won't answer.

Zaretsky - yes
Mass Moca - ?
Skadden - ?
Buchel - ?

Maybe it is possible that you were contacted by one of them, and they requested that you not say anything about it? But then, why would they contact a blogger?

Anyways, no chip, I am just reading your views on this with a Zaretsky spin....

Sorry, I don't subscribe to this idea that you can put this information out there, and we are not allowed to question it.

9/27/2007 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Can someone dare make of this a training ground for youknowwhat by simply casting a vote system where all commenters would vote for their side of the thing?

(Buchel - Mass Moca - Neutral)

Maybe that would lead to the best lesson about this?


Cedric Caspesyan

9/27/2007 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I don't subscribe to this idea that you can put this information out there, and we are not allowed to question it.

I don't subscribe to it either. Any information I've put out there that came to me from some other source I've quoted as such. My point to you (and seriously, I don't know why I bother) is you're in no position to judge what I've been "eager to swallow" (as you put it) or not, as you have no idea what I've received but decided not to share.

Again, I'll ask that you drop the subject. Or at least reveal who you are and why you're hellbent on making a major issue over this.

9/27/2007 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

The very idea of Ed being eager to swallow gives me shivers.

9/27/2007 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm s-o-o-o-o not touching that one. :-)

9/27/2007 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Sorry, I don't subscribe to this idea that you can put this information out there, and we are not allowed to question it.

I don't subscribe to this idea that one should grant full disclosure to an anonymous nuisance.

9/27/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Cedric Caspesyan said... casting a vote system where all commenters would vote for their side of the thing?

good idea:

vote here

9/29/2007 01:37:00 AM  

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