Copyright or wrong?

10 04 2013
china-copyright-Capotondi

On the left: Claudio Capotondi, ‘Sferosnodo’, 1983. On the right: copy of ‘Sferosnodo’ outside Kunshan station, China. Image via The Art Newspaper (www.theartnewspaper.com)

I’m sure I’ve used that headline before. Actually, I know I have. But it’s too good to resist. Besides which – it was two years ago, and more of a subheading than a headline.

Anyway, another to add to my ongoing file of copyright/authorship conundrums… (a couple more linked here and here).

According to The Art Newspaper (TAN), Italian artist Claudio Capotondi has made inroads into the Chinese art world. A version of the work he produced in 1978, Sferosnodo, was selected for permanent display at the front of a station in the city of Kunshan, China.

The only catch? Capotondi had nothing to do with the creation of the sculpture on display in China. It is much larger than the artist’s own work, which he first made in bronze in 1978, and again in marble in  1983. He also had no idea the gargantuan version was being made.

But now here’s the mind-bending thing. Think about ‘authorship’ and what you think it means in the context of fine art. Well, Capotondi is now campaigning to have the new version attributed to him. Although I had a look, and it appears that his website is now offline, according to TAN, Capotondi lists the sculpture as his own on his site. He has also said that he admires the work. “There are excellent craftsmen over there. It is a complex structure and the copy is much bigger than my original.”

So according to this, blatant plagiarism can result in a work of art for which an artist can claim authorship, even if he or she had no idea it was being made, far less any involvement with its creation.

OK. So, does that mean that Gucci is going to claim authorship for the dodgy knock-off handbags sold in the streets? Unlikely, because they wouldn’t want to acknowledge such shoddy craftsmanship. Not to mention, their trade relies on the premise of ‘exclusivity’. Does that mean artists will claim authorship of a stolen design only if the object produced measures up to their exacting standards? And does that mean that if I were to whip up a completely excellent Damian Hirst, that he would claim authorship, and I’d be in possession of an original Damian Hirst, rather than a derivative Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios? Of course, there are laws in Australia and internationally that would make the latter scenario more complicated. But I’m talking theoretically.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

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One Moore questionable artwork withdrawn from auction.

9 02 2011

Oh, those puns just write themselves. In an article published in today’s Age, ‘Auction house fears sculpture may be less than a Moore’ (see what I mean?), Gabriella Coslovich reveals that a sculpture listed in Mossgreen’s latest catalogue as a work by acclaimed British sculptor, Henry Moore, may not be all that it seems. The image here, taken from The Age, shows the more Moore sculpture at left, and the less Moore sculpture on the right. Don’t worry. I’ll stop now.

Mossgreen is dispersing Melbourne-based painter Robert Doble’s collection of art, artefacts and ephemera on February 21. The sculpture formerly known as ‘Mother and Child‘, and now most likely referred to by Mossgreen staff as “that #*!*%!# piece of $#!*” was to have been the highlight of what is a very eclectic collection (have a peek at the online catalogue here). It has now been withdrawn from sale after revelations from an interested buyer that it may be a forgery. Coslovich refers to an article published in 1993 in The Independent that quotes the Henry Moore Foundation, which administers the artist’s estate; Julie Summers, deputy curator of the Foundation, says of the flood of Moore forgeries on the market: “It’s terrifying”.

Unfortunately for Robert Doble, mother-and-child compositions are the most often faked. The telltale signs of a forgery that’s been cast from an original work? The base on a forgery will be cast with the sculpture, whereas with the original, the sculpture will be attached separately to the base. Also, as the casting process causes the bronze to shrink during cooling, the forgery will be slightly smaller.

The biggest concern with this for the art world in general? These works continue to circulate. Robert Doble has indicated that he intends to give it to a friend as a 50th birthday gift. Although it’s unlikely to find its way back onto the market anytime soon, what about in ten or fifteen years or so, when all the fuss has died down? When I was at Leonard Joel, I once saw the wonderful Treena Joel (granddaughter of Leonard) write ‘FAKE’ across the back of a canvas that had been submitted for sale at Joel’s, and categorically proven to be a fake or forgery. Although I’m fairly sure that defacing someone else’s property like that could get you in trouble, I appreciate the sentiment.

In France, authorities are permitted to remove signatures from fake works of art. Here? Most of the time, they end up back in private hands only to resurface on the market in the future. That’s why I toasted the incineration of the notorious Blackman and Dickerson forgeries last year. Burn them. Burn them all!

(Image: ‘The Age’ online)