Siegelaub Chapter 6

From Paradise

Jump to: navigation, search


S.R. More or less, I have two spheres I want to bring together The one is that you already mentioned, »the artists' rights..« which I consider one of the most important steps, if you see the development of art as a linear, that is problematic. But to have something like that... it's a big step even if it's only used by some artists. And the other thing is that I want to bring you, push you a little bit to say something about the influences for yourself, for your work, for your thinking, your background and the artists which came to you as a partner. So one...

S.S. Which do you wanna do first? The contract...

S.R. Maybe the contract can be something like a second step.

S.S. [...] The background... A lot of it is chance, let's be clear about that, a lot of this is pure hazard ... chance encounters, sniffing around ... There's certain affinities which I've mentioned already, concerning the economy of means, the fact that practically all the work you can think of was not expensive, that's really very, very important. The fact (...) Let's start from the beginning, I'm losing myself ...

S.R. What do you consider as the most important influences for your own work?

S.S. My own work I could think within the art world - I was mentioning I started off, but I was not wrong [...] Individuals, probably? Two people come to mind, but basically before I get involved or talk about them is that the criteria for my interest was people who were close to the art making process. Two people come to mind who were more or less my contemporaries – they where more or less my generation ... a dealer called Dick Bellamy who was active in the early 60s ... - sculpture and a lot different things-, and also a critic and – I suppose you call him a teacher- who was active in E.C. Goossen ... doing relatively standard shows, Barnett Newman ... MOMA; he did a show which stands out as important; »The Art of the Real«, a travelling show done in [...] 68 or 69. Dick Bellamy had a gallery called the Green Gallery. But it's not so much because of what they did, but rather their relationship to the artists which influenced me or made me think about what I would be doing or what I considered I could do in the art world. Both of them [...] where much older [...] their relationship to artists [...] that's where the action was ... So I looked to them or at least they influenced me – Dick particularly had his ups and downs; in terms of money, personal life and whatever. And the same can be said of Gene Goossen who was among other things ... he ran the Hunter College art department which gave a lot of people jobs, very simple - he also had a very keen eye and was a critic and a lot of things like that. Basically, both of them had a very highly respected and close working relationship with the artists that they may have had to deal with, but in very different ways. That's what I felt a dealer should be doing amongst all... amongst everything; developing, working with artists, to show their art ... The fact that the artists turned out to be making things that they did ... A lot of the reason you are sitting here talking to me is because the quality of Lawrence's, Joseph's, Doug's and Bob Barry's work has, I wouldn't say sustained the test of time, but obviously has had a profound influence on art making practice since 1970, I mean ... And I'm part of that [...] history. But the two people that I mentioned ... [...] I remember Kasper König running around, I remember Walter was close to things like that, but they were more contemporaries in a certain way, whereas these other people were ... even if they were five years older, but they were more involved with the art world in a certain way. That was like the key to it; what I would be doing was related to a close working relationship with the artists, whoever they may be; and then specifically with these artists, having to do with my class background, my class [...], my economic situation, my interest in publishing, which [...] was there well before, you know I collected books, before I was involved with the art world, at a certain level, in any case ... That was like the fundamental background, ... my relationship to artists and why I dealt with them the way I did ...

S.R. Maybe we can have a short focus on the development and the value that this »Artists' rights transparence» took for you. Because I think it was a very specific historical moment ...

S.S. I can give you a certain summary, summarize it. One of the backgrounds was as I mentioned earlier was the work of the political activity in the Art Workers Coalition; many people were talking about this kind of problem, about artist insurance... At that time artists would live in lofts which were illegal [...], you weren't allowed to live in lofts, they were tolerated, didn't really exist ... a lot of artists had economic problems, heating their lofts ... So there was a lot of talk about artists' rights in general, and enforcing them. One of the things that provoked the protest against the MOMA concerned Takis had some kind of mobile sculpture that either the museum presented in the wrong way or took out or did something, manipulative to it ... this was the trigger for daily or weekly protest in front of the MOMA for six months, and meetings and things like this, again in the context of the Art Workers Coalition, artists political activities, also related to the War, the anti-Vietnam activities, fundraising – we often did ... fundraising things; I myself did at least two or three conferences which people would pay two or five Dollars for [...] to discuss various contemporary art problems or questions and things like that ... So, this comes out of that specific environment in New York, but in Europe, droit de suite, the artists' rights, had existed under Napoleonic Law since the early 19th century, and artists in France have always had the right to a certain percentage of their work, a certain moral control over their work ... how it's shown, postcards can be made of it ... So there is a an existing structure of law in Europe which already deals with some of these questions. What was original about this particular project, which was written by a lawyer who was very much what was called at the time a sort of a »storefront lawyer»; someone who was involved with people, tenants, sort of »do your own law». This was an activity which was going on at the time, too -[...] law was something ... a very specialized thing. The man with whom I worked on this, by the name of Robert (?), was that kind of progressive lawyer who was involved with storefront work, [...] petitioning landlords [...], generally a progressive kind of law ... And so this was a certain kind of art-law project [...]. And it was also conceived, after I consulted with tons of people – which was also a lot of fun, because normally I would have no need to see famous dealers or famous artists, I would have no contact with them in the course of my normal work, which consisted of very few people, Lawrence mostly, and Bob ... So it gave me the opportunity to talk to a lot of important dealers, Art Dealers Association ...(short break)... It gave me the opportunity [...] to speak to many different artists, in a way, and what we were trying to do, Bob and I, was to create a relationship, easily not just controlled, but easily maintained between the artist and the next purchaser of a work of art, and giving him or her a line, I mean a legal line, for all subsequent purchases. We weren't interested in institutionalizing it, setting up a national foundation for the [...] protection and advancement of it; we thought we'd do a very private thing, as I stated very clearly in the brochure itself, in the description of the modus operandi for the contract. It was meant as a private document; it didn't have to fall into the hands of the tax people [...] etc. But it was a means of keeping track of an art work, and the artist took control over it, and it didn't have to be a nasty thing. Now of course – and it may be one of the backgrounds to your question – is beginning on the 1st of January, common market, the E.U. is instituting a national droit de suite, and there's been a lot of complaints about it. First, I mean amongst other people, the cost and how ruined the art business in Europe and [...] although, as I say, in France and probably many other countries, there already exists a law which is more or less not applied [...] or is not taken seriously, and they are very concerned that it's going to make the market more difficult to sell things here and all the auctions are going over there or go to the United States and people will sell things over there. Although in fact, there was a law, and I think it still exists, in California where they actually enacted a law which gives works sold at auction of a certain period, over a certain time, a certain percentage goes to the artist. But these are institutionalizations of a project that we had, to maintain some kind of relationship between the artist and his work as it travels ... The 15% profit, if any, was obviously what the Art Dealers Association of America would have been after immediately, and a lot of dealers are collectors, and ruin the collecting business ... all sorts of crazy things. But that was only one aspect of it; I was picked on as being the critical one, obviously in capitalism ... so there's no surprise that people would go after that, the economical thing. But on the other hand it had a lot of critiques, for example Lawrence wasn't too excited about it, although [...] Hans Haacke uses it, and I think there's quite a few other artists. I don't keep a record, I don't really know, it's only by chance that I find things out ... Oops ... I lost the train there [...] The use of the contract, I was saying. Yes, it was intended as a private document to be used between [...] only the individual's concerns, and they more or less could keep it as private as they wanted ... but it was just to assure a continuity between the artist. It was also intended to keep a record an artist's work, because artists' works only start building up a record when he or she becomes famous. This was a way at the very outset that you could keep track of a work of art, privately, just keeping little slips of paper with a little note on the back of a work – that's another problem, of course, some works, particularly from our generation, don't have the backs and fronts, but to be able to maintain this continuity. But there were people [...] - including Lawrence - who were against it; ... Lawrence said if I remember correctly [...], that what it did was just present the work of art as a piece of capitalist merchandise and just give them protection over it as any piece of capitalist commodity [...]. And there were a lot of other, of many other kinds of complaints, if he uses it I won't use it, if it gives me the edge in selling to a collector and things like this. So we tried to deal with it from all possible sides to be able to have something that was conceivably workable, not an idealistic thing. For example, you don't have problems with giving royalties to authors, for example... Authors get royalties and some people make millions of dollars. Royalties, no one says: oh no, it kills the author business or a publisher can't publish anymore, or rock musicians and music and things like this – there's royalty systems going on for all these people. There was a serious problem which has been evoked very recently in line with the common market institutionalization of royalties, next January, 2006, is that in fact most of the royalties go to very rich artists already and the remainder go to the estates and people who have nothing to do with it, wives and children and things like this. Someone cited a figure which I don't know if it's correct, but it could be correct, is that in France like 80% goes to the family of Braque, Picasso [...] and that may well be; but that's that may well be, I'm not sure that's true, and that may be just a number someone came up with to ... sort of argue it. But even that doesn't change the heart of the question here, because what we were trying to do was basically establish a relationship, a legal relationship between the maker of the work of art – what happens to it .... as a way of a tracing, control over the use of the work etc.

S.R. So if this is something like a milestone for the rights of the artist or the copyright of the artist; how do you think, how should the artists behave? Should they just use the contract or do you think that they have to appropriately overwork it for their own concerns?

S.S. Oh yeah, we were very clear about it, and although it's an original project which I'm very proud of. Daniel Buren has had a contract for years, I mean long before, I mean since the 60s, since he started to do installation work concerning what can be done with it, what can't be ..., what permission is needed to show it ... [...] And I'm sure there's other people who have played with this idea, this kind of control over their work after they no longer own it. It' s difficult to say, but one of the things that we did explicitly say or that I explicitly said in description modus vivendi: you do as you like, you don't have to take 15%, you don't have to pay anything; you can just stay with the clauses concerning your control over it; no one can repaint it, no one can show it next to – you know Reinhardt could say, I don't want to be shown next to Rothko. You can put various kinds of conditions on it, too; it wasn't written in stone [...] it was a totally flexible thing. I wouldn't say it was »just an idea», it's a little more than that, but it's just a working document for people to be able to manipulate. And I must say even about ten years ago I didn't get a group of lawyer people coming from Brussels asking me these kinds of questions which (..) leading to the formulation of a policy which in fact is going to come into existence on January 1st, 2006, which is supposed to wipe out the entire... Because much of the complaints of course come from the auction houses who are very important, because they are very public – more or less public ... there is a lot of dirty dealing there – they are mostly public and they are very powerful, they have hundreds millions of dollars going through, they are very visible they're very things like this ... They [...] run with the ball and say ... art is going to be stopped being sold, everything is sold in Euros; what they don't say for example now ... is that the relationship from the Dollar to the Euro is so terrible that even if you do have to pay 4% to somebody it's probably just as interesting to sell it in Euros. In any case, [...] but I think there's a lot of extenuating arguments to be made for it. But our intention was very clear: to create a private document which will allow some kind of chain of relationship between the artist and what happens to his work after it has left his or her studio.


« Seth Siegelaub »