RE: Venetian Scales of Man- govt stolen art

From: Vanessa Novaeris (
Date: Wed Feb 20 2002 - 09:35:49 MST

>Artworks, carvings etc sold by 19th
>century Maoris are being returned, but surely
>once something is sold the artist (or his descendants) has no further right
>to it? Opinions please?
>Philip Howison
Personally, I don't like the whole idea of selling artwork (which is probably why I was never very successful as an artist). I think the true value of art is in its accessability - both physically & subjectively. Visual art has a wider audience than literature for example, which can only be directly enjoyed by people who 1) have the ability to read & 2) have some level of reading comprehension. 
(**I am NOT saying that one is superior to the others in any way, simply that visual & some performing arts require, at the most basic level, less of their audiences. Just to be clear, all I mean is that you can go to an opera & enjoy the show without understanding the words or the story - the abilities to simply watch & listen are not inhibited by any lack of comprehension. But with literature, if you can't read or comprehend the written word, you can be neither actively nor passively involved *directly* with the artform. ** Having said that...)
What I mean by the "physical" accessability of art is simply this: the more people it can reach, the higher its value. Everyone brings their own unique view to a work of art. No one can say that one person's view is right or wrong - art is one of the few things that most people (barring critics) accept as a universally subjective phenomenon. I think its amazing how masses of people over thousands of years can collectively share & recognize the value of a piece without losing that distinctly personal, individual experience that truly is the joy of art. What good is a piece of art if no one can see it to enjoy it? For this reason, I think art should be free to all. Sorry for grandstanding a bit, but I hope it can help illustrate some of the problems with the whole idea of "ownership" in art. (bet you couldn't guess I'm an art-lover :P)
I realize this is even beyond idealism, so I'll get back to the point. Back in the real world, art is no different from any other commodity - once its sold, its sold for good (unless an agreement can be reached by *both sides). Its really that simple - why should any special or different rules apply?

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