Sunday, March 03, 2013

Who Owns Public Art? Learn the Story Behind Banksy.

Last May, London graffiti artist Banksy painted a mural now known as “Slave Labour” on a wall in the borough of Haringey in London. The work was mysteriously ripped out of the wall and put up for auction in Florida at Fine Art Auctions Miami with a value listed at  $500,000 to $700,000. After much public outcry, the auction house withdrew the work before the sale. A recent article in New York Times, “Borough searches for missing boy, last seen on wall” hints at the question of who owns the art and what are the artist’s or the public’s moral rights.

 Read more about “The Story Behind Banksy” in February’s Smithsonian magazine.

Moral rights, which include an artist’s right to the protect attribution and the integrity of his or her work, are delineated in an evolving area of the law.

Internationally, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works was first adopted in 1886, and most recently revised in 1971.

The Visual Artists Rights Act  of 1990 (VARA), 17 U.S.C. § 106A,  was the first federal copyright legislation in the United Stated to grant protection for moral rights.

The 1984 Massachusetts Art Preservation Act (MAPA), M.G.L.  c. 231 § 85s , states “The general court hereby finds and declares that the physical alternation or destruction of fine art, which is an expression of the artist’s personality, is detrimental to the artist’s reputation, and artists therefore have an interest in protecting their works of fine art against such alteration or destruction; and that there is also a public interest in preserving the integrity of cultural and artistic creations.”