there's (lots of) money involved (and everybody wants some of it)!
I've (kind of) talked about this before, both in relation to my own work and with regard to the recent court case involving Richard Prince and his 'appropriation' of Patrick Cariou's photographs. At the time of my first post on the subject Cariou was ahead on points but it appears that Prince won the decisive tie-breaker.
I return to the subject because of recent reaction to the sale at auction of a painting by Glenn Brown .
This is the Glenn Brown piece in question, recently sold at auction by Sothebys for £3.5m. Brown's painting, 'Ornamental Despair (painting for Ian Curtis)....' dates from 1994 and is essentially a copy of Chris Foss' 1986 cover for an Isaac Asimov novel 'Stars Like Dust'. So far this is very much business as usual for the art market (and this is first and foremost a story about the art market), except that Brown's subject matter and Foss' cult status among sci-fi fans brought it to the attention of a group that wouldn't perhaps normally engage with or take notice of the art world (but then not that many people do in the global scheme of things). This article from io9.com and more specifically the comments (I know, never read comments sections on the internet) give some idea of the reaction the 'news' provoked. So let's deal with a couple of points here, firstly, is Brown's practice legitimate, in other words the old 'but is it art?' question. And the answer to that one is a resounding, yes, of course it bloody is! Next question please (and no, I'm not going to enlarge on that answer, it's not my job to educate anyone on the vagaries of art history, theory or current cultural modes of practice, this is the internet, look it up). Is it worth £3.5m? Obviously, to whomever paid that much for it in today's market. I did say this was about the market didn't I? Does Glenn Brown owe Chris Foss £3.5m? No. Does Glenn Brown get the £3.5m? No. Under current droit de suite regulations he's entitled to a maximum payout of €12,500 that's around £10,000 but as I understand it (I may be wrong) payment is not automatic and he may have to pursue it himself (or get someone to do so on his behalf). So, basically a non story.
If I appear to be a bit sniffy about Foss's work in this post it's not intentional, he's one of Britain's finest illustrators and a giant in the field. And for those wondering what the actual book cover looked like here's how the publishing industry treated his 'iconic' work. Stars Like Dust. Non Sci-Fi fans may also be familiar with Foss through a rather different bestseller that gave his work more exposure than he ever received from painting the covers of space operas.
Work in progress and other stuff that happens.