The debate over artist resale rights in the U.S. continues to intensify. In early 2010 artist Mark Grotijahn sued Los Angeles art collector Dean Valentine after he resold several of Grotjahn’s works at a profit without compensation to the artist. The California Resale Royalty Act (CRRA) states that any time a work of fine art is resold for $1,000 or more and either the seller resides in California or the sale takes place in California, the artist is entitled to five percent of the sale. With the case still pending a decision in the state court, Valentine unexpectedly agreed to pay all royalties, plus interest, as well as a portion of the attorney fees incurred by Grotjahn in order to settle the lawsuit. The settlement totaled just over $150,000, of which roughly $70,000 was allocated for royalty fees and $85,000 for Grotjahn’s legal fees.
Untitled (Blue Face Grotijahn) by Mark Grotijahn
This agreement between artist and seller has been struck at a time when Sotheby’s and Christie’s are themselves defending class action lawsuits brought against them in California for the same issue.
Just last month, the auction houses filed a joint motion to dismiss the cases arguing that the CRRA interferes with United States interstate and foreign commerce regulations. Among other objections, the auction houses maintain that the CRRA is “preempted by the Copyright Act of 1976” under which Congress had “the express objective of creating national, uniform copyright law by broadly pre-empting state statutory and common-law copyright regulation.” Online auctioneer eBay has also been sued, but has requested dismissal on the grounds that the website only serves as a platform for fine art sales and is not an actual sales agent.
The class action suits against Sotheby’s and Christie’s were filed in central California by a group of artists and estates, including the Sam Francis Foundation, the estate of Robert Graham and artists such as Chuck Close and Laddie John Dill. The suits target “the willful and systematic violation” by the respective defendants of the CRRA law. Los Angeles-based attorney Eric George explains to ARTnews that the ultimate goal of prosecution is to secure the same compliance of resale royalties that already exists in Europe.
Lillian Bassman, in 2010
American fashion photographer Lillian Bassman died yesterday at the age of 94. Bassman is considered one of the greatest female fashion photographers to date and is credited with advancing the careers of such other noted photographers as Richard Avedon and Robert Frank. Bassman began her career in fashion in the 1940s at Harper’s Bazaar, under then-art director Alexey Brodovitch. She was later promoted to art director of Harper’s spinoff magazine, Junior Bazaar, where she began to promote the work of Avedon and others.
After spending many of her lunchtime hours developing the work of fashion great George Hoyningen-Huene, Bassman developed a specialized method of printing photography – even before she began to take pictures. When Richard Avedon took a trip to photograph in Paris in the late 1940s, he lent Bassman his studio and it is there that she started her self-education in photography.
Known for her dramatic, grainy, highly expressive and dreamy black and white portraits of women, Bassman made a name for herself in the commercial fashion world. The discovery of some long forgotten negatives revived interest in her work in the 1990s and she enjoyed fame once again, as a fine-art photographer.
Bassman continued to work until her death, most recently working with digital technology and Photoshop to create a new series of work. About her work, Bassman once said, “I wanted to present women in the way I felt about them…Feminine, serene and elegant. It’s a woman’s point of view about other women.”
A portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, that had hung in the Springfield, Illinois governor’s mansion for over 30 years has recently been discovered as a fake. The painting, thought to be by artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter had recently been sent out for cleaning. While cleaning the famed portrait, art restorer Barry Bauman discovered that the artist’s “signature,” as well as several other details on the painting had actually been added at a later date.
The painting, which had been sold to Lincoln’s descendants in the 1920s for $3,000 was donated to the Illinois state historical society in 1976 by Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, the great grandson of President Lincoln and his last living descendant. According to folklore, the portrait was supposedly commissioned by Mrs. Lincoln in 1864 as a surprise gift for her husband, who was assassinated before he had the chance to see it.
The Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield is planning to present the findings at a lecture on April 26th. February 12, 2012 marked Abraham Lincoln’s 203rd birthday.
The Seattle Art Museum just opened a long-awaited for exhibition by French artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) titled, Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise.
The show is currently on view through April 29, 2012.
For more information, visit the Seattle Art Museum’s website.
Winston Wachter Fine Art is pleased to share the below photos of a new bronze and walnut altar, as well as a bronze baptismal font for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, which are by sculptor Julie Speidel.