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Talk: Daniel McClean - The Law, Artistic Authorship and Institutional Critique

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Time: Tuesday, June 5, 5 pm
Place: Lucie Fontaine’s studio, Iaspis, Konstnärsnämnden, Maria skolgata 83, Stockholm

Daniel McClean’s talk The Law, Artistic Authorship and Institutional Critique is part of Body of Work, a project developed by Lucie Fontaine in collaboration with Iaspis. During his talk McClean will examine legal disputes between contemporary artists and art institutions or collectors and how artists have turned to the Law in order to enforce their artistic authorship.
He will discuss the recent legal dispute (2007-2010) in the US courts between Christoph Büchel and MASS MoCA regarding the museum treatment of Büchel’s commission Training Ground for Democracy. McClean will consider how Büchel was able to successfully rely upon the US legal regime for protecting artists’ moral rights of authorship – The Visual Artists Rights Act (1990) and the implications of this decision for artists and institutions. He will also trace Büchel’s dispute with MASS MoCA to earlier conflicts between artists, collectors and institutions in the 1960s, including Carl Andre (with the Whitney Museum) as well as Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt (with Count Panza) in relation to the treatment of their works.
Furthermore McClean will discuss Seth Siegelaub and Bob Projansky’s prophetic model of legal rights, The Artist’s Contract (1971) and their radical proposals regarding how artists could control the artwork after its transfer, including benefiting from its re-sale and controlling its exhibition.

The talk will analyze the links between artists’ use of the Law as reflected in Büchel’s trial and Institutional Critique arguing that in some respects this trial can be seen as the ultimate form of Institutional Critique and the culmination of the project. It will also however, discuss some of the parallels and limits of both the Law and the ‘art system’ in interpreting authorship and the blindness of both systems to collective processes of cultural production and reception. It will do this by considering the central and often paradoxical role the Law has played in constructing and enforcing artistic authorship in fields where the artwork is dematerialised (Conceptual art) or dispersed (Relational Aesthetics) and where the ‘authorisation function’ is critical.

Daniel McClean is a London-based independent curator, writer, and art-legal adviser. He worked with Superflex on a series of site-specific art commissions exploring the use of rules, instructions, contracts and performance in the contexts of contemporary art and the law. He has advised a wide range of public and private art world clients, including the Arts Council of England, Gagosian, Haunch of Venison, and Tate. He regularly writes on art legal matters.

Following the talk, Lucie Fontaine will present her work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm as part of Yoko Ono’s piece Search for the Fountain (2012), which is included in “Grapefruit,” Ono’s exhibition organized by Cecilia Widenheim opening the same day – June 5 from 7:30 pm to 10:00 pm.

Lucie Fontaine is in residence at Iaspis during spring 2012. For more information about Lucie Fontaine and Body of Work, please visit and or contact Iaspis project coordinator Ulrika Sten at e-mail: or phone no. +46 (0)8 506 550 94.


Updated: 2012-05-30 Tell a friend

Image: Lucie Fontaine, Daniel McClean, 2012.

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