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In the past three years I have received many requests from art
owners for guidance in the maintenance of murals and the care and
disposition of art work touched by building renovation or demolition.
It has been gratifying to participate through the Los Angeles Mural
Conservancy in the salvation of wonderful works which would have
otherwise been lost.
With respect and appreciation I urge you to support this important
It strikes a fair balance between the interests of
the artist, commercial and public institutions, and our cultural
heritage. The California precedent has been successful, free of
any excesses or frivolous suits. This bill creates a needed
national uniform standard, providing this important protection
across the country.
Thank you for your attention and consideration.
Re: Visual Artists Rights Act (s. 1198) Hearing of June 20 1989
Dear Senator Deconcini,
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before your sub-committee
I and Artist Equity Association, would oppose a provision in this
In principle, it could be said that the best legislation regarding
1. There is a dramatic difference between the social and economic
power of the two parties entering into such an agreement. I
2. I believe the purpose of this legislation is to ensure artists
rights and to protect our cultural and artistic heritage. Though
response to Deconcini
I have no reason to believe that the relationship between artists
Fine Arts Preservation Act since its adoption in 1979. All other cases have been settled out of court. There have been no frivolous suits, no confounding of lawyers and judges, no burdening of the courts, and no reduction in artist's sales or commissions. mind, there have been no requests for moral rights waivers.
The loss in 1984 of the Crocker Citizens National Bank mural is not an isolated incident. Every active, mature artist I know has suffered the loss or mutilation of one of his major works. We hear of the loss or alteration of the Calder sculpture in Pittsburg, the Noguchi piece in New York, the Smith mural in Maryland and the chopped up Picasso. What is not well known are the losses occuring each day in local communities. Los Angeles has lost major works by Richard Haines, Susan Hertel, Millard Sheets, Kent Twitchell, Jane Golden, and many others prior to 1979. There have been fewer losses since the enactment of the California Fine Arts Preservation Act. This legislation has made possible the forming of the Los Angeles Mural Conservancy which now catalogues, restores and provides guidance to mural owners regarding preservation.
Success story: In 1987 the Beverly Wilshire Hotel called me regarding the California Fine Arts Preservation Act and a Millard Sheets mural in an area destined for renovation. The Mural conservancy advised them in the removal of the mural. The Beverly Wilshire presented it as a gift to the people of Beverly Hills, and the mural now decorates a wall of the new Beverly Hills City Hall. The hotel benefited from the publicity and the community benefited from the mural relocation. This story would not have taken place without the California arts legislation.
Thank you for your consideration of the Visual Artists Rights Act.
Senator DECONCINI. Thank you, Mr. Van Sant.
STATEMENT OF MARC F. WILSON, DIRECTOR, NELSON-ATKINS
MUSEUM OF ART, KANSAS CITY, MO Mr. WILSON. Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to participate in this discussion on Senator Kennedy's Visual Artists Rights Act. I am Marc Wilson; I am the director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. I am also the second vice president of the Association of Art Museum Directors. I, too, wear an academic hat; I was a professor at the University of Kansas. I am also your chairman of the Indemnification Program on the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.
I will forgo reading my statement, as it has been submitted, and I will ask that it be made part of the record. If I may, I will depart from that and concentrate on a few issues.
None here would deny the importance of the arts or of visual artists; they are a record of the spirit of our Nation. That certainly is not at issue. They are, as individuals and as an industry, part of a much larger complex. They are important to our society. There are many elements. There are those of us who are charged with presenting works of art to the greater public through museums, galleries, public galleries. There are those who sell works of art, trade in them, and profit from them. There are those who write about them, those who study them, those who publish and disseminate them to the interested publics.
Whatever version is adopted in this bill will take into account that artists and art are an integral part of our Nation and that they are, indeed, part of the glory of our Nation.
Turning now to the legislation under consideration, let me commend you for undertaking this and Senator Kennedy for bringing this bill to us. We must consider it; the status quo is not enough.
It is very complex, and it will require considerable discussion. You have already had considerable discussion. I am here today to support the underlying concept of this measure, namely, to guarantee the integrity and the attribution rights of artists. Specifically, as a consensus of art museum directors we are in agreement with the intent of the legislation, particularly with respect to mutilation and the rights of the artist to associate or disassociate himself with his work.
When first introduced there were problems with the legislation, and a good deal of thoughtful revision has taken place. I am pleased to acknowledge that. We have had clarification of opportunity and protection, and I really think that must not be sacrificed. Those of us who are charged with showing these works to the public-and indeed, very often acquiring them on behalf of the public-still have some concerns. The word "distortion” had been eliminated from an earlier version, and it is returned. I hope that word will be considered carefully. To those of us who install these works of art, that word could unnecessarily lead to litigation. The example of California suggests that perhaps it is not a great problem, but why risk it? Artists naturally have, as anyone involved with paternity, a great stake in that work of art and what they consider to be its proper presentation. A serious mislighting, perhaps changing the lights-if it is not properly lighted, “you have distorted my work.”
The other issue is questions of royalties, whether that is going to help the artists or not. I suspect that it might do more harm. I am very pleased to see that this has been assigned for study to the National Endowment for the Arts.
One must also make a distinction between possession and ownership, as we possess many works of art which have come to us through involuntary possession.
Finally, I think the question of transferability must be studied. Will it be harmful? Will it not? My own experience suggests that it may be harmful, particularly for the majority of artists. It may end up that both the sales royalties and the question of alienability will serve the interests of a small percentage of very successful artists and do nothing, or perhaps harm, the great majority of artists.
I thank you for taking up this important work.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Wilson and responses to questions submitted by Senator DeConcini follow:]