Tuesday, March 03, 2009

American Watercolor Society Gold Medal - the final verdict on Sheryl Luxenburg

It was a long time coming, however last month the American Watercolor Society, Inc., (AWS) finally released the following statement to the AWS membership and the artist community at large about the withdrawal of 2008 Gold Medal from Sheryl Luxenburg.

The controversy surrounding the American Watercolor Society’s 141st International Exhibition Gold Medal winner, “Impermanence,” by Canadian artist Sheryl Luxenburg has been the subject of innumerable blogs, websites and chat rooms worldwide for many months.

We sincerely appreciate all those who contacted the society and respect all opinions expressed on this issue. This dialogue has contributed to our understanding of the extent to which the art community has taken an interest in the outcome of this issue as it affects each artist and the respective art societies.

The American Watercolor Society has been holding an annual juried exhibition of watercolors from artists throughout the world for over 140 years. It was founded to promote watercolor and support painters of the medium. The goal of the AWS has always been to promote original art and it is against this backdrop that the controversy first emerged.

The American Watercolor Society, like other watercolor societies, has developed its eligibility requirements for entry into the exhibition over the course of many years. Eligibility for entry is as follows. “The Annual Exhibition is open to all artists working in water media (watercolor, acrylic, casein, gouache, and egg tempera) on paper. No collage, pastels, class work, copies, digital images or prints; original work only. Maximum frame size is 44” in any direction. Image size limit is no smaller than 10” x 14.” All paintings must be sturdily framed and have plastic glazing (Plexiglas).

The requirements as contained in the prospectus as well as the acceptance form are quite specific and leave no room for ambiguity. Upon acceptance, the requirements are further emphasized by a disclaimer signed by the artist stating that “The accompanying artwork is an original; not a copy or likeness of another’s work, i.e. painting, drawing or photograph.”

Our prospectus clearly informs artists of these eligibility requirements which were designed to maintain high standards and to focus on originality.

By establishing these requirements, the onus rests with the artists to ensure compliance with the rules set forth. Each artist is therefore free to accept or decline these conditions.

When it was determined that Ms. Luxenburg’s entry violated our eligibility requirements, the AWS requested that our Gold Medal and prize money be returned. The Medal and prize money were returned, and Ms. Luxenburg has been disqualified from entering any future AWS exhibitions.

Watercolors accepted to our annual exhibitions reflect a wide variety of styles and inventive handling of the medium and attest to the fact that innovation and exploration are not only encouraged, but welcomed by the AWS.

The AWS will continue to count on the integrity of artists entering our exhibition, but in fairness to our own members and the art community in general, we will remain vigilant for any violation of our standards. Any artist who is determined to violate our entry procedure can expect a fair evaluation initially, but if found to have done so; can expect a serious and permanent final resolution.

AWS Statement on 2008-2009 Gold Medal Award Statement released February 2009

The gold medal controversy and its implications for artists and art societies

It's unclear as to precisely what rule(s) she infringed - which is a pity. However the statement gives a clue in the parts of its rules which are quoted and the penalty suggests to me that there was at least some conscious element of deception.

The way I interpret the statement is that

  • Luxenburg produced a derivative work created from two photographs which she had not licenced correctly from the photographers for the purpose for which they were used.
  • Luxenburg's 'artwork' did not meet the society's explicit requirements for original work.
  • Luxenburg either understood nothing about copyright and/or reads rules and terms and conditions without due care and attention and/or practiced to deceive.
It's still not entirely clear what the answer to 'the big question' was. I'm not clear whether the work in question was really a watercolour painting or whether it was a giclee print or a print with some degree of painting enhancement. Based on the evidence presented on the internet (before most of it was removed due to representations by Luxenburg's lawyers), a number of people concluded that it was highly likely that the work in question was predominantly a giclee print. I'd love to know what steps the AWS took to establish whether or not this was the case - and what the outcome was. While digital artwork might now be gaining a place in printmaking exhibitions the AWS has now made it very clear that people using any element of digital artwork (eg using technology and water-based inks) cannot enter their watercolour competitions. Presumably brushes must be tangible and not part of a computer program!

I also think the AWS would be doing a great service to all other art societies if they explained the process they went through to review the case and establish the nature of the infringement(s) which occurred.

After all, key issues arising from this case include the following

  • it's fact that there are artists who set out to deceive as well as artists who fail to read the rules of entry thoroughly and others who will opine that they made an 'innocent mistake'
  • ineligible works do get submitted to art competitions; do get shortlisted; do get into exhibtions and do win prizes. This is not the first time it's happened.
  • it is possible to for judges in a juried competition to either lack the knowledge to detect ineligible works or to be deceived
My own view is that the artists - particularly those of a photo/hyper-realist persuasion - can defend themselves against any possible query if they do the following:
  • avoid making assumptions
    • make sure you understand what an art society means by 'original work'
    • make sure you understand the entry conditions and copyright law as it applies to use of reference photos and originality of artwork
    • ask questions of the art society if you're not sure about anything
  • avoid making 'innocent mistakes'
    • read the rules of entry thoroughly and more than once
    • read carefully all the detail and terms and conditions of any licence to use a photograph taken by another artist
  • establish your own credibility and integrity
    • don't be secretive about your process - in future this may now give rise to concern
    • retain and be able to produce your own data inclusive photographs of the original reference
    • take photographs of the artwork during the process of completion - as these will support any statements you might wish to make about the way you work

......and finally - what about the other artists?

Personally speaking I'd have also really liked to see a statement which revises the awards given to all the other artists. After all at the Olympics if the gold medal winner gets disqualified you don't leave the gold medal without a winner - you upgrade all the other competitors in the order in which they finished!

I think it's a very great shame that Mark E Mehaffey AWS doesn't get to include AWS 'Gold Medal Winner' in his resume.

Links to posts in September 2008 about the AWS Gold medal controversy:

31 comments:

Margaret Ryall said...

I've followed this unfortunate event for awhile. I don't want to comment on the specifics of it because I certainly do not have all the facts. On top of that, the situations now seems to include lawyers. Not going there...

I would like to make a comment on copyright and artists. It is so important for artists to take copyright seriously and become familiar with the copyright laws of their country. I know for example that Canadian laws do vary from American ones, e.g., fair use.
I was talking to a friend about copyright law on fair use and she was quoting what she had found on a website. Unfortunately it was American copyright law she was quoting and she is Canadian. At least she was concerned about copyright.

In addition it is important to really understand what rights you are acquiring when you pay for the use of images from stock photo sites. The degree of use allowed varies significantly form artist to artist and site to site. How many artists for example would ask to the terms of the transaction in writing?
How many artists believe that changing something a little makes the use of another artist's work ok? Then there are all the artists who appropriate imagery from multiple sources. That's a slippery slope for sure. It can be quite confusing. I've waded through this confusion for several years, researching and wanting to do the right thing. My conclusion - I use my own imagery; I don't have the time for due diligence.

Nicole Caulfield said...

The AWS had to make a decision not based on copyright laws - but based on the rules they set forth in the prospectus. Good for them for sticking to what they wrote in the rules - for the sake of all the artists that did adhere to them.

In the media societies we often pick winners based on their technique. Which makes sense - the shows are supposed to show off what the media can do... but I think it is just as important (for the artist) to be able to create their own images to work from. Whether from life or photographs - I want the initial idea to come from the artist. IMHO of course! :-)

Pat Aube Gray said...

In looking at the "evidence" provided in the link on this blog,it is obvious that, despite the method used to produce the work, the images are not the artist's own. In my capacity as artist, teacher, and juror, I have seen many students and artists who, time and time again, paint from the photos or reproduced art of others' despite my lectures and explanations of the wrong inherent in doing so. So often am I told that copying is okay as long as you change 3, 4, 6, 7 points (depending on who is offering the "explanation"), that I must wonder where this information is being disseminated.

I own a small gallery and asked an artist to remove his work when a young student brought in a magazine containing a photo that left no doubt that his work was plagiarized. Not wanting to get into a conflict with the artist, I regret and am embarrassed to say that I did not tell him the real reason. All of this man's work is sold as giclees and he now has his own gallery in a neighboring town. I now question not only whether he habitually infringes on others' copyrights, but that the work may be merely computer-enhanced scanned photos in the first place. When a customer brought one of these works in to be framed at my shop, I did tell her that I knew at least one of his images to be a copy and that she might want to be careful investing in any others.

In the case of the AWS, the violation of an explicit rule justified and clarified their actions and was backed by an organization. In a case such as I have outlined above, how does one suggest or accuse without the possibility of a legal entanglement?

mongoose1 said...

I think understanding the copyright laws are important for artists as well as gallery owners.

I attended a show this weekend where the artist freely admits to using images from Flickr and various website. Granted the artist uses them in new ways but they still do not own the original rights to the photographs they are painting.

When I asked the gallery owner about the copyright issues I was told there were none because the images were in the open domain.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Just to comment quickly on that last point - just in case anybody reading it believes the gallery owner!

1. Images in the public domain (ie visible by you and me on our screens can also be copyrighted with some or all rights reserved). Being able to see it does NOT mean it is freely available to use.

2. An image is in the public domain only if the artist has relinquished all rights they have over it and has declared that formally in a way which an artist can reference if challenged.

3. Any artist selling drawings or paintings derived from images which have not been released into the public domain or where the artist does not have a clear and formal record of a licence to use the image can be sued. They leave themselves open to having to pay over damages calculated in relation to the money made through the use of those images - plus forking out for their legal costs and the legal costs of the originating artist,

MonkAre said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nicole Caulfield said...

They may be picking images from Flickr that have chosen to offer them in Creative Commons Licensing. Maybe? If they have CC licensing the photographer allows some uses that they make explicit... but it is always safer to contact the photographer to clarify what usage they are offering.

Billie Crain said...

i remember reading about this ballyhoo on Wetcanvas. enough said.

btw, i couldn't agree with you more regarding Mehaffey. I'm a huge fan of his work.

Nita said...

The AWS statement indicates that their only judgment in the case is based upon their rule in the prospectus requiring the artist to use only his or her original source materials. If you pay for the use of someone else's image or get permission in writing, it is still not your original image and is against the rules of the exhibition. Copyright is an issue between the photographer who took the images and the artist who used them and has nothing to do with AWS.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Nicole - I know what you mean but in my experience most decent photos on Flickr have all or some rights reserved

The point I was trying to make is you can't assume that because photos are on Flickr that they are in the public domanin and ergo can be used without any reference to the copyright provisions.

The point is artists need to check and check and check again - something which it would appear from the latest newspaper articles quoting Ms Luxemburg she failed to do.

Laureline said...

I'm glad to learn how all of this was resolved. I wonder, too, if the artist intended to deceive or was cluelessly innocent. Hard to believe the latter. Thanks for posting this, Katherine.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Nita - I'm not sure if we're not talking at cross purposes here as the latter comments on copyright related to a comment up above.

Let me be clear - I absolutely agree with you (and the first point Nicole made above). The scope for decision-making by AWS was determined by the rules they had set down for the exhibition entry.

I wasn't aware last summer that the AWS form which artists are required to sign spells out what 'original work' means in some detail.

Clearly, once AWS established that the photographs were not her own then every other issue (in relation to breach of copyright, how the artwork was produced etc) falls by the wayside.

However if you look back at my first post on this topic, it records the gist of a statement made by AWS last summer which is now impossible to find on their site.

"Initial queries and artist's perspective - Queries were apparently raised as early as May about the painting in question. AWS published a notice (now published here) which states the artist's perspective - which is that the photographs were either copied from her website or her work was photographed while on exhibition."

Thus it's quite clear to me that she misrepresented the real situation to AWS as to ownership of the photographs (and the copyright) and that presumably explains the severity of the penalty.

Assuming AWS established that the photographs in question were in fact taken by other people (as was claimed at the time) then this would be sufficient to establish that
(1) there had been non-compliance with the rules of entry.
(2) Luxenburg had lied to the AWS (based on the content of that earlier statement). In doing so she was making the AWS a party to her deception.

I certainly suggested in my first post on this matter that it's my view that not all artists entering competitions actually understand what original work means and my view is that art societies have a role to play in clarifying this mattter again....and again and again.

Some people certainly seem to believe that creating a work based on altering a photograph taken by somebody else creates an original work rather than the derivative work which is actually created.

It's worth noting that claiming somebody else's photo as your own doesn't make it an original work either.

Nita said...

Since the current post is directed to the AWS decision, copyright is irrelevant in this matter. In my opinion, the AWS made the right decision. I do not believe that they are bound to publish their process. The rules were flouted and appropriate action was taken. The complete terms of the settlement may be sealed. But the message is clear: follow the rules. Your signature on your entry is your contract that you have done so.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Just to follow up Nicole's point about Flickr's creative commons section -- there are now tens of thousands of photos licensed under various creative commons licenses and many of them, in my opinion, are very, very good photographs, often posted to draw attention to the photographer's other work. It is not your mother's creative commons. ;)

That said, I think it's ridiculous that anyone thinks that you can quantify how many items you change from a reference to make it your own. It is blatantly obvious to anyone who looks at source material whether or not something is derivative. Not saying this is always wrong -- it's a great learning tool and often accepted practice in animal art, for instance. However, it's another thing entirely to enter one of these derivative pieces in a juried show. I applaud the AWS's strong decision, especially in this case, where the artist was nothing but an expensive Xerox machine.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Nita - I also think AWS made the right decision - eventually - and I'm very pleased that they've made a public statement.

However, let's remember that the behaviour of this lady meant that Mark Mehaffey has also effectively been deprived of a gold medal and a prize of $4,000 in the year of its award and the associated financial rewards that such a prize can generate. What should have been a moment of prestige and a pinnacle of achievement in his career has been ruined by what this woman did.

I'd like to hope that AWS places a value on learning and that learning being shared with a wider audience. Public statements are very helpful to creating a clear understanding that then helps to prevent similar occurrences occurring in future. I just find this one a bit more opaque then it could be.

In investigations of what one might call "lapses in professional behaviour" by other organisations that define and uphold expected standards of behaviour, it's common practice to release a statement at the end of the investigation which states clearly what the problem was, how it was investigated, what conclusions were drawn and what action is being taken as a result. This can all be done at an overview level but the specific findings in relation to an individual are very rarely open to interpretation. To a certain degree, the transparency of the process is part of that education and communication which I was referring to above. It acts as a 'warning' to others.

Obviously in this instance the artist was not a signature member of AWS. However to my mind the application of the general principles relating to "this is what happened, this is what we did, these are our findings and the action we are taking in relation to the general and the particular" are still appropriate in this instance given the very wide interest in the case and the potential lessons to be learned by both artists and art societies.

My own view is that there is still a lack of clarity as to what the findings were. Restating the conditions of entry does not tell us what conclusions were reached and we are left to interpret the exact nature of the violation of conditions. For example, could it be only (1) 'failed to submit an original work of art because she copied a photo taken by somebody else'? Or is it (2) 'failed to comply with requirements by submitting art which included an element of digital image or print'? Or both? Also, what conclusions did AWS draw in relation to the statements made by the artist to AWS and published by AWS in their first public statement relating to this affair.

Finally, I'd really like to hope that the long term outcome of all of this is beneficial to all artists entering similar open exhibitions. I hope, in future, that art societies generally are able to balance the exercise of a duty of care to all those involved and affected with the ability to reach speedy conclusions so that they ensure that other artists don't suffer the same fate as Mr Mehaffey.

Felicity said...

According to the UKCPS rules for a pencil only competition, you can in fact melt wax crayons and apply with a brush so the definition of a pencil is pretty broad. While I can't defend what this woman did (I would like to hear her side though) I can't help feeling that a broad interpretation of these rules is the norm, and maybe, like a pencil, watercolour has a broader meaning in the art world!

Sara said...

May be I'm misreading it (because my English as second language is far from perfect), but I don't think is fair to say that "the behaviour of this lady meant that Mark Mehaffey has also effectively been deprived of a gold medal".

Ms. Luxenburg participated in a contest with an artwork that she claims didn't know that was inappropriate.

In my opinion who runs a juried competition is responsible to:

- Provide clear and detailed information about its rules to minimize the misinterpretations.

- Recognize and rule out ineligible participants.

- Point out the winner/s according to the principles.

- Investigate irregularities and restore the order.

If Mark Mehaffey doesn't have the gold medal, it's because this entity -after all- has decided it.

Mistakes happen. And it is wise to admit them, and value/judge them as what they are.

Mac said...

A similar photo/copyright/portrait controversy happened in the Archibald competition a few years back. http://www.thearchibaldprize.com.au/history/controversy

I would have absolutely no ethical or artistic problems with what Luxenburg did. Many of the best contemporary painters use found images/photos and only make minor alterations (if any at all) in their reproductions of them in paint. Richter springs to mind and I know Jenny Saville uses images from magazines/journalists. Sickert used newspaper photos, Bacon used anything and everything he could get his hands on. Luxenburg even paid for the rights to stock images she used.

The only crime I can see here is that she broke the rules of the competition so I would have no problem with her being disqualified (and, according to her own statements, she broke these rules in ignorance rather than malice/wish to cheat). As for the outcry - even death threats apparently - I think it's ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as the AWS not being able to tell if her entry is actually a watercolour or simply a photographic print.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Mac - I think the kindest interpretation of what happened is that this is an artist who didn't read the small print.

She did not licence the rights - but thought she had, because she did not read the licence terms and conditions. I read them. They're not difficult to understand.

Even if she had read and understood them and bought the copyright it was irrelevant.

Because the competition rules and form also make it clear that your work can't be a copy of another person's work. The fact that she didn't have the right to make a derivative work is neither here nor there. A derivative work was not acceptable to AWS.

As to the use of material from elsewhere and belonging to other people, I think we need to recognize that making art in general and making art for an exhibition with a competitive entry and hefty cash prizes are actually two different things.

The first is governed by legislation

The second is governed by legislation and whatever rules that the organisers want to introduce.

In this instance, the sponsors made it very clear that they wanted the artwork produced to be wholly and entirely the work of the artist.

So no copies allowed.

She made a copy, her 'innocent mistake' was discovered and she has forfeited the gold medal, the cash prize and any chance of ever entering another AWS competition.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Sara - thanks for participating using a second language - it's not easy is it?

Does the previous comment help any? The fact of the matter is that the AWS did spell it out in simple terms. No copies allowed. All artwork must be original.

"No collage, pastels, class work, copies, digital images or prints; original work only."
“The accompanying artwork is an original; not a copy or likeness of another’s work, i.e. painting, drawing or photograph.”


Entering a competition brings obligations to both parties.
1) The organisers have a duty to make rules simple to understand and
2) all artists MUST read them and then follow them before submitting their entries.

However, I'm still in the dark, as I guess is virtually everybody else, about why this all took so long to sort out.

Mac said...

Sorry Katherine, I wasn't trying to argue against your points about rules and eligibility. It was more the broader arguments I had read elsewhere about the artistic merit in copying photographs that were taken by someone else.

From what I've been able to dig out about Luxenburg's work it seems that her entry was typical of her work. In fact it seems that usually she finds an image and copies it very directly, unlike this case where there were 2 images combined and manipulated slightly. So again, I would argue that there was nothing sinister in her entry. By this I mean, I can't imagine that she sat down before the AWS comp and said 'I'm going to cheat here and I know it'. She seemed to enter a typical piece of her work.

I have no problem with her being disqualified, it's the venom with which people are attacking her that unsettles me. I have seen entries in the BP award for example that have broken the rules of their entry but have been allowed through (size/medium rules mostly) so it's not unusual for entries to sneak through the submission and get hung.

Can the AWS not simply pass the gold medal on to the second place artist?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Last first - I really don't know. One would have thought this was the obvious thing to do. Maybe AWS will do something when they announce this year's winner?

I certainly have no problem re your points about working from photos. It's just that if an artist wants to compete with fellow artists for a gold medal and cash then they are normally going to find it is on a level playing field - created by rules. Otherwise the organisers might as well just say there are no laws and no rules - it's a total free for all - surprise us! (This is irony - just in case English humour does not translate!)

I share your concerns about competitions which don't apply their own rules. Maybe the problem is that the art world cultivates a notion that rules aren't actually that important. I know I've seen a number of debates online where artists have objected to the very notion of rules might apply to art!

One of her other works (referenced in my first post) was discussed by the photographer who took the photograph - of herself. She was maintaining that she had never given permission for the photo to be used. According to the Shutterstock thread I read last September, the set of her works on her page on the SCA website which "disappeared" were obviously derived from a set of photographs belonging to a third photographer.

While she may have normally used her own photos, it would certainly appear that her approach in using and manipulating photographs taken by other people was not unique to the work submitted to AWS.

Being sloppy about reading things properly I can understand. Misunderstanding what "original work" actually means I can understand. Failing to achieve a good grasp of copyright law I can understand. I'm sure a lot of artists following the case have made a mental resolution to be a lot more careful in future when they enter competitions!

The bit I really don't understand is that first AWS statement. This is the one in which the AWS stated that she maintained that the photographs which had surfaced were actually ones which people had taken OF her work in the exhibition. Despite the fact that the man's face is obscured in her work and was whole in the photograph.

Didn't anybody think that was a bit odd?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

An update - this is an article in the Vancouver Sun - Ottawa painter stripped of art prize (5th March 2009)

It would appear that Luxenburg is still claiming that the painting was "an original hand-painted painting"

Whereas I don't think the AWS have been as precise in their use of words as they need to be if they are denying this claim. (I can't tell whether the words in parentheses are theirs or the Vancouver Sun's).

"But AWS operations director Morris disputed Luxenburg’s statement that Impermanence had been deemed a hand-painted work.

“That has not been completely established,” he said. “The prize was withdrawn because she did not comply with the rules of entry. We didn’t need to (establish the originality). That can be an expensive process.”"


It does seem to suggest that the work was never tested as it didn't need to be once it was established that she had infringed the rules of entry.

I agree it's wise not to spend money when you don't need to. On the other hand it's probably a good idea if AWS establish how they are going to disntinguish giclee prints from hyper-real hand-painted paintings in the future.

I've never seen any reports on the internet of anybody ever having seen her hand-painting her works. (If anybody has could you please leave the link as a comment)

I feel sure that Luxenburg will want to demonstrate her technique in public if she feels the need to bolster her credibility as an artist who paints by hand - with a brush.

Anonymous said...

http://www.societyofcanadianartists.com/exhibitions/Statement0607.asp

This shows that she has done this more than once.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Can I remind people that in general I don't accept anonymous comments.

If you're pointing to a link elsewhere that's one thing.

If you're commenting in a particular way about a matter that has neither been proven nor disproven then it's quite another. What other painters do or don't do is also neither here nor there.

shayna baylin said...

The rules do not seen clear enough 'copy' could be referred to copying another artists artwork without permission (she did pay for the stock photo), or a photocopy. I am not disputing whether her work should have been pulled from the juried show, but I have read online that it was original and took 500 hours of her work.

I wonder, would Andy Warhols paintings of Campbell Soup cans violated copyright laws, or is it art?

I'm posting because I want to clarify some comments about using images from Creative Commons sites.

Flickr's creative commons with 'attribution' copyright permission allows
"You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work - and derivative works based upon it - but only if they give you credit. " right now flickr has 15,364,672 photos with this amount of permission. That licence allows commercial use of your work. When you add works that allow you to use their photos but not commercially that number increases to 35,405,879 photos. I think that from these numbers there are a multitude of images that are of good quality to use as source material. We live in a digital age.
Personally I feel that if you alter the original image to reflect your voice the resultant work is original. I've never been a fan of realistic art but see it as an technical accomplishment. They knew her genre was realisitc art that strives to create the image down to the minutest detail. This she accomplished, and took 500 hours to do so. Her artwork accomplished this technical feat and I admire her technical talent.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

In relation to the AWS competition, it really doesn't matter what style the artist paints in. Your own (or her own) personal views are of also of no consequence to a competition. What matters are the rules as defined by AWS. When you enter a competition you have to stick to the rules - or risk the consequences. It required original work. Derivative works are NOT original work ergo what happened.

It also really doesn't matter whether it's copying without permission or photocopying because it's not allowed. Copying means it's not original!

You are also making an assumption that the painting was all her own work. However if you read around on this topic (or did at the time) you will have seen a number of people questioned this notion.

In this digital age I guess questions are always bound to be asked whenever anybody indicates a method of working which sounds pretty much the same as the way a giclee printer works. That's when people want to start seeing you actually do the work...or images of your work in progress.

I continue to wonder what would have happened if she had actually created a work based on her own photographs rather than copying other people's.

Artidan said...

During the 2008 disclosure of giclee prints, several galleries declined to submit some of their highly priced works to detailed chemical examination...I think when a printing process such as giclee has the ability to reproduce exact brush strokes, the ease and ability to produce fakes is tempting, and many galleries were aware of this, and several became named in law suits over the originality of several expensive, high end paintings. Paying over 100 grand for a print is a scandel, and creates a questionable market for such copies...however, such copies should be sold AS copies, without fraudulently claiming they are originals. As always, caveat emptor...touching up a print does not constitue art, and should not be considered art. I think several buyers were upset because they realized they purchased giclee prints...NOT real oil works, acrylic paintings, or watercolors. Watercolor is notoriously a flexible medium, not particularly suited to produce photo-realistic paintings.
This was a premeditated scam the AWS uncovered, and the resultant protestations and definitions were to save face, and stop this from happening again. Period.

Artidan said...

This whole debacle was a premeditated scam that used giclee printing to create a fake...several high end galleries were suspected of selling giclee copies instead of originals, and using a photocopy does not constitute art, regardless. The ease with which someone can copy an original work of art now opens the door for many fakes, and the caveat emptor rule is in full effect, as giclee can reproduce brush strokes so convincingly, it's hard to tell the difference between a hand painted work and a copy. Hyper-realism aside, a photograph is a photograph, and not a genuine work of art that buyer expect has been created by a brush and paint. Prices and sales should be adjusted accordingly; copies should be labeled copies, and original oil works defined as originals. Using photographic techniques is a separate field of art, and does not belong in a contest of skill. Oils, acrylics, and watercolors are created with paint, brushes, and a supportive medium, such as canvas, paper, or board. Collages, montages, or mixed media should be classified as such, and selling a convincing giclee painting with realistic brush stokes is a copy, period. Some unscrupulous galleries are still selling giclee copies and representing them as originals works...this is fraud, plain and simple. This person fooled the AWS, and the whole ordeal was over-analyzed to save face. The AWS should just admit they were fooled by an expert copy, plain and simple, rather than elaborating their submission guidlines to exclude mechanical reproductions. Photos are cool, but art is awesome, and usually a stylistic rendering of an image by imagination. An exact copy is not art; it captures reality, not the imagination, thereby excluding a viewer's ability to see what they see in suggestive renderings.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Hi Artidan - you offered two opinions and I published both as they said slightly different things.

I hadn't heard about galleries which are now reluctant to have high priced artworks subjected to chemical analysis. That's worrying! Do you have a link to a site which substantiates this assertion?

I think the problem for an art society caught in this sort of situation is that there are no rules and they have to respond to what they find in the best way they can up with at the time. AWS chose to respond by changing the rules. If it happened again I guess they may respond differently. I'm happy with the notion that those who run societies do the best they can and learn over time better ways of doing things.

33buddyrich said...

Merits of it being made by hand or by printer aside, if it was made by hand I do wonder about the copyright status?

Is it considered parody or a "mashup" (which under canadian law is an exception for fair dealing in a recent update to our copyright law - though not in 2008 when this happened) as she took 2 separate photos and combined them.

This is a big problem in music, particularly the Rap genre, though DJ's "remix" all sorts of original music into their own music. And there have been lawsuits over it as well.

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