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Lesson Plans


[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
carla schiller (
Wed, 25 Nov 1998 18:13:33 -0800 (PST)

In the law there has long been an issue in the intellectual property
rights area over who has the right to do what to a work of art. In our
country, we have permitted an artist to sell an entire work with all its
accompanying rights (reproduction, exhibition, etc.) to someone and the
buyer thereafter can do whatever he/she wishes to it, including destroy
it. But in other parts of the world (I think countries that are
signatories to the Berne Copyright Convention, but I'm not sure), physical
ownership of a work and its other accompanying licensing rights still does
not give that owner the right to modify or destroy the work -- that right
remains with the artist and the artist's heirs, at least for some time


Carla Schiller, Esq.
Teacher, Highly Gifted Magnet
North Hollywood High School, CA
webpage index:
"We all make the best choices from among those we see, but we don't always
see all the choices available." --Author unknown

> > On Mon, 23 Nov 1998, R. Moore wrote:
> >
> > > L. Muelder has been discussing the destruction of artworks with his
> > > students, and has found them horrified by the wanton violence done against
> > > art, historically. There are some very interesting works on this topic,
> > > and some wonderful examples of willing destruction. I can't remember the
> > > name of the new book (published just last year) on DESTRUCTION OF ART, but
> > > I'll look it up when I get home and get back to you. It's a dandy. And
> > > there's an essay by James O. Young called "Destroying Artworks," In
> > > JOURNAL OF AESTHETICS AND ART CRITICISM (I'll look up the volume, etc. on
> > > that one too). If you are interested in pursuing this topic in class, I
> > > recommend you start by consider the historical phenomenon of the
> > > ICONOCLASTS, literally "image breakers," who systematically destroyed
> > > artworks they held to be antithetical to regligious precepts. Then
> > > consider the trial of Paolo Veronese before the Holy Tribunal of the
> > > Inquisition (1537), documented in Veronese, "Trial Before the Holy
> > > Tribunal," in Elizabeth G. Holt, ed., LITERARY SOURCES OF ART HISTORY: AN
> > > censorship. Then the well-documented acts of Hitler's Third Reich against
> > > "degenerate" artworks (Schlemmer, Nolde, etc.). And then, of course the
> > > NEA flap.
> > > It is also worthwhile considering the question of when artworks
> > > SHOULD be destroyed. There are some recent works that have to be
> > > destroyed after a while because of the limited temporal endurance of their
> > > material. "Shirt for an Anorexic," a work made entirely of flank steak,
> > > and shown in a Seattle Museum recently, had to be destroyed once the
> > > steak started rotting. Similarly with Beuys's works made of lard. Or
> > > butter. Museum curators have faced problems of deteriorating materials
> > > for a long time. One very interesting twist comes with totem poles. Some
> > > Native Americans have claimed that totem poles should have a life, just as
> > > we have, with a natural beginning, middle, and end; so they should be left
> > > outside where they can weather and eventually return to the earth. And
> > > then there is the famous "Erased De Kooning," by Robert Rauschenberg, a
> > > work that consisted in the complete erasure (and hence destruction) of a
> > > previous artwork.
> > > This is clearly an area in which a great deal of interesting
> > > discussion can be generated.
> > > Ron Moore
> > >
> > >