Friday, May 31, 2013

New Ruling in Beuys performance photography case

Artforum International Digest, November 2010:


A German court has made a landmark decision, which could have consequences for the future documentation and exhibition of bygone performance-art works. Heard in a Düsseldorf court, the case pitted the German artist copyright collecting agency VG Bild-Kunst against the Stiftung Museum Schloss Moyland, the Moyland castle museum foundation that holds the world’s largest collection of works by Joseph Beuys. The court decided in favor of VG Bild-Kunst: Documentary photographs of a Beuys performance can no longer be exhibited.

As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, problems began last year when the Moyland castle museum showed Manfred Tischer’s photographs of Beuys’s 1964 performance Das Schweigen von Marcel Duchamp wird überbewertete (The Silence Of Marcel Duchamp Is Overrated). The artist’s widow Eva Beuys successfully contested the exhibition on the grounds that the documentary images did not respect the original performance. Although Beuys’s thirty-minute performance was broadcast live on German television in 1964, Tischer’s photographs are the only remaining document because no film was made at the time.

VG Bild-Kunst, which also protects artist estates, represented Eva Beuys indirectly in the recent case. Siding with the artist copyright collecting agency, the Düsseldorf judge ruled that Tischer’s photographs were an “inadmissible deformation of the original work” and infringed upon the work’s copyright. By extension, the Moyland castle museum foundation can no longer exhibit them. While promising to appeal the judgment, Moyland director Bettina Paust criticized the decision and argued that documentation of performance-art works could not be disestablished. No word on how the court’s decision will impact Beuys exhibitions outside of Germany."

Artforum International Digest, May 29, 2013:

"Who owns the rights to photos of performance art? According to Der Standard, a new ruling by the Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe will allow the Beuys Museum in Schloss Moyland to display photographs taken of the artist’s fat and chocolate actions without first obtaining permission from his widow’s estate. The decision overturns a Dusseldorf court’s 2009 ruling that the museum’s eighteen photographs could only be exhibited with Eva Beuys’s approval. Now, according to the federal court, while the 1964 performance is protected under copyright, the photographs, which were taken by Manfred Tischer, are “unsupported material.”"

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