Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hoping Bernie Madoff Finds New Career In Art

Chuck Close
Recently, my friend Edgar Stephen Curo posted an interesting story from the New York Times called "Artist Files Suit, Seeking Royalties." As it turns out, I had a thought or two about it. The following is the rant posted to Edgar's Facebook:

"They [sellers, museums and galleries] contend that the law’s main beneficiaries are artists who need it the least: those, like Mr. Close [Chuck Close] or Mr. Stella, whose work is famous enough to sell again and again."

Wow... "The artists need it the least"? I will admit, that most of my art in recent years has been in the form of films or music, but I remember The Rhode Island School of design costing tens of thousands of dollars... It was a big part of why I dropped out. Sure, there are the lucky few artists who this quote may apply toward, but for the vast majority of artists out there, they're not making a dime on their work.

The "Sellers" make the argument that this is not like copyright in film/music/literary works, because "the realization of a work of art is in exhibition, not in duplication.” What this whore fails to understand is that films are also paid for by their exhibition: It's called a movie screen, or a TV screen. Musicians are paid for their exhibitions. They're called concerts, CDs, mp3s, radio. Literature has Kindle, and paper. The New York Times charges you to read on the web. These are their galleries.

Jerry Garcia
Don't get me wrong, I understand their cut-throat logic: If I were to sell the physical master tape a Jerry Garcia song was recorded on (to use their example), I would expect to get a hefty sum. It is, of course, the original. (See John Lennon's tooth for sale.)

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is, that if a painting does get popular enough that people care about it, it is proliferated through libraries, magazines and now the web, and the artist never sees a dime for it. I suppose that we can't all have the resources to stage a marketing coup like Mr. Brainwash, but I think it's about time visual artists got treated at least with the same degree of respect that the rest of the arts get-- which is of course still pretty abysmal.

Mr. Brainwash
That being said, we starving artists knew what we signed on for, and I don't think a piece of legislation will have significant change on our artistic output... except perhaps to diminish it. After all, the struggle is often as much of the process as it is the art itself. I wouldn't expect the US to join with the European Union on this issue, but it seems to me that Sotheby's and Christie's and other such should at least have the decency to acknowledge that the artist themselves are of value.

But what else is new? Art-dealers, stock-traders, plantation owners, they're "the job creators." Right? Thanks Rockerfeller. Bernie Madoff says he's happier than he's ever been in prison. I wonder if he'll take up painting? I wonder how much his chicken scratches will sell for at Christie's? After all, it's not how well Jerry or Bernie paint... It's about the size of your auction block. Now, paint Bernie, paint!

Written by Rod Webber

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