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marnixR
Post  Post subject: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it ?  |  Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:57 pm
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say you have enough money to buy a very pricey painting from Van Gogh or Picasso, and you stipulate in your will that your possessions, including the v.v.v. expensive painting are to be destroyed on your death, say as part of a cremation including all that you own

are you entitled to do this ? i suppose there's nothing in law that prevents you from doing so, but is this work of art really yours to destroy, or merely to pass on to the next generation on your death ?

in short, is there an ethical entitlement by the rest of humanity that prevents you from altering the painting to such an extent that it no longer is the original ?

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it  |  Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:20 am
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Once you own something, it is yours to do with what you please, unless that action causes measurable harm to another. You could buy the Eiffel Tower and decide to burn it down, or purchase a Rolls Royce and blow it up, or a ming dynasty vase and drop it off an overpass. The purchase transaction is a transfer of ownership, and ownership affords you with that right... AFAIK.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it  |  Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 7:24 pm
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why is it then that many people feel that not to be the case, i.e. that financial ownership does not give you total freedom to act as you please
does society have rights that trump personal ownership ?

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it  |  Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:59 pm
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marnixR wrote:
why is it then that many people feel that not to be the case, i.e. that financial ownership does not give you total freedom to act as you please

Can you help me better understand with an example or two?

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Ophiolite
Post  Post subject: Re: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it  |  Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:27 pm
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The legal right would be there in most if not all jurisdictions, but the moral right would be decidedly absent.


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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it  |  Posted: Mon Oct 24, 2011 7:01 am
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presumably the confusion can arise, as Ophiolite stated, between legal and moral rights
presumably if you had bought the Mona Lisa (assuming this would be allowed at all) and decided to destroy it, the only way you could be held accountable in court if you had contravened anything in the contract under which you bought it

however, it would be no surprise that you would suffer under almost universal opprobrium since most people would consider it to be morally wrong

come to think of it, isn't this more or less the same concept behind the Unesco World Heritage list ?

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Q42
Post  Post subject: Re: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it  |  Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:53 pm
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Apologies for resurrecting dead threads with my second post but this caught my eye.

It actually depends on the contract you make with the artist upon buying it. In most cases when there is no contract involved, I suspect yes, you have the legal right, but some artists do sell with clauses attached about what you can or cannot do with the piece.

Someone more familiar with copyright law might correct me on this one, but if I recall, even if you buy and own a piece of artwork, you cannot for example make copies of it to sell for profit (prints for example of a painting) without the artist's express permission. So there might be implicit laws regarding the destruction of a piece that I'm not aware of, too.


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it  |  Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:04 pm
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Q42 wrote:
Apologies for resurrecting dead threads with my second post but this caught my eye.

No worries. It's never a problem if you feel you have something interesting or a new perspective to add. Some discussions definitely benefit from the insights of new people.

Q42 wrote:
It actually depends on the contract you make with the artist upon buying it. In most cases when there is no contract involved, I suspect yes, you have the legal right, but some artists do sell with clauses attached about what you can or cannot do with the piece.

I guess I never realized such contracts existed. Interesting consideration. Is this common in the art world?

Q42 wrote:
Someone more familiar with copyright law might correct me on this one, but if I recall, even if you buy and own a piece of artwork, you cannot for example make copies of it to sell for profit (prints for example of a painting) without the artist's express permission. So there might be implicit laws regarding the destruction of a piece that I'm not aware of, too.

I'm not so sure about this one, but I'm hardly a copyright expert myself. My thought is that it makes good legal sense that you cannot profit off of someone else's work, but I don't really see how that would apply to destroying someone else's work that is legally acquired and owned by you.

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Q42
Post  Post subject: Re: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it  |  Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:32 pm
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iNow wrote:
I guess I never realized such contracts existed. Interesting consideration. Is this common in the art world?


I think it's more common when there are corporations or public works involved. I cannot for the life of me remember the specific piece, but there was controversy several years ago about a large sculpture funded by a business for their property. The property wasn't public per se, it was part of the business campus, mainly used by folks who were part of the business. People complained because the piece was built in such a way that it blocked one of the more convenient paths from point A to point B, causing people to have to alter their routes significantly (by large work I mean landscape-altering). The business subsequently tried to have it moved or destroyed and was sued by the artist. Again, my memory is poor and I can't remember the specifics, whether he won or lost, what the company had to do (if anything), I just remember that there was legal backlash.

Also, if you get your work published in a book or as a poster or deck of cards....or for that matter even the text of the book, you have to be extremely careful with contracts. I know a lot of folks in academia who no longer have the rights to their own work because they signed them away to the publisher. Meaning that even if their book goes out of print, they cannot then take it to a different publisher or even (legally) make their own copies for a course packet.

On the flip side of the coin, I know of one visual artist who didn't WANT her work reprinted, changes in personal ideology caused her to consider her earlier work to be obscene by her new religious beliefs (I think in this case she, as artist and creator, asked that the originals be destroyed), but since the publisher owned contractual rights to the work, the publisher reprinted it anyway. I think that's a rare exception, most publishers would at least respect the artist enough to not reprint it if the artist requested that favor. In her case she never took it to court or anything though, so no telling what a lawyer would have said had she decided to take it to that level.

iNow wrote:
I'm not so sure about this one, but I'm hardly a copyright expert myself. My thought is that it makes good legal sense that you cannot profit off of someone else's work, but I don't really see how that would apply to destroying someone else's work that is legally acquired and owned by you.


I'm not sure either. From a common sense perspective I don't see how it would apply either, but from a legal perspective....there are all kinds of weirdnesses.


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Q42
Post  Post subject: Re: if you own a piece of art, are you allowed to destroy it  |  Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:55 pm
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I got curious and did some googling:

This person doesn't list specific laws, it seems to go back to the contract issue if there is a contract, but:

http://faso.com/forum/discussion/?id=9268

Here's a reference to U.S. law regarding the destruction of artwork, there are limitations:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_Artists_Rights_Act

Also, the piece I was referencing before is linked on the above wikipedia entry, John Serra's Tilted Arc. Looks like it was actually intended as a semi-public piece rather than private, federally funded.


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