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  #1  
Old 04-20-2007, 10:44 PM
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Merlion Merlion is offline
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Artists' Moral Ownersip of Commissioned Public Art

I'm glad our local press is discussing and raising awareness of this issue.

Interesting quotes/excerpts from below. "There is a historical value to these works as they become visual markers in the landscape," she said. "This city unfortunately has no memory, it's easy come easy go."

At the heart of the issue for Tay and others is respect for art and their artists.

"It's plain rude not to inform an artist even if the work is only meant to be moved."


Where art thou?

April 19, 2007, 'Today', Ramon Orlina isn't what you'd call an emotional man, but earlier in his career the 63-year-old artist had good reason to cry and did.

His $300,000 (US$200,000) work, Wings of Victory, made up of 67 suspended steel birds weighing 35kg (77 lb) each, went missing.


Having been displayed in the Wisma Atria atrium from the late 80s, Orlina's work was abruptly taken down by the building's previous management in the early 90s.

"But they didn't inform me and I only learned of its removal through a friend who was in Singapore," Orlina told 'TODAY' earlier this week over the phone from Manila. "When I met up with them they said we own everything in the building and we paid for the work, so we can do whatever we want with it." ....

Sadly, Orlina's experience is not an isolated one: Singapore-based artist Delia Prvacki's works at the Singapore Power Building recently suffered a similar fate. Four out of the six stoneware water features she created in 2001 were nowhere to be found last week when she visited the building. Like Orlina, she wasn't consulted on their removal.

Created and installed at a cost of about $100,000 (US$50,000), the works, together with a koi pool, were located in an area earmarked for platform lifts and ramps. These, Singapore Power told 'Today' in a statement, are part of its plans to provide a barrier-free environment for elderly and physically-disabled customers.

It also added that there was a safety reason behind the removal. In recent years, there have been incidents of people falling into the pool.

Prvacki declined to comment as she is considering legal action.

Lawyer and art curator Lindy Poh said artists like Orlina and Prvacki have limited rights over such art works "the people who commissioned and paid for it do own it" but her feeling, and that of many in the arts field, is that professional courtesy dictates that they should have been informed.

After all, for a country that's striving for arts hub status, the increasingly common practice of demolishing valuable art works that took years to create doesn't seem like a step in the right direction.

Easy come, easy go

From Orchard Road to Toa Payoh, public artworks such as those by Prvacki and Orlina are a common sight with over 300 such works in existence according to a recent National Heritage Board survey.

Recognising the importance of such public art, a Public Sculptures Committee was set up in 1988 to encourage the donation of public sculptures, while the first Public Sculptures Masterplan was drawn up by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1991 with the aim of taking art to the people.

It has done just that, turning works such as the iconic bronze sculptures Contentment and Wealth by artist Ng Eng Teng that stood in front of Plaza Singapura in the 80s into well-known landmarks. Even so, the sculptures were moved to the National University of Singapore in 1997, when the building was renovated.

At least they weren't destroyed, which is the fate of the mosaic tile mural outside the Orchard Road MRT station where the Orchard Turn Development is taking shape. Its artist, Leo Hee Tong, said he had not been informed of its imminent demise.

The price of progress? Sculpture Square general manager Tay Swee Lin doesn't think so.

"There is a historical value to these works as they become visual markers in the landscape," she said. "This city unfortunately has no memory, it's easy come easy go."

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

At the heart of the issue for Tay and others is respect for art and their artists.

Both Prvacki and Orlina noted they were open to suggestions if their works had to be moved. , Orlina cited the case of another of his works, Fertile Crescent, which once stood at Forum Galleria and had been earmarked for dismantling until he suggested that it be donated to the Singapore Sports Council.

Today, the $300,000 work is located in Kallang near the National Stadium. Similarly, the now-defunct Kallang Theatre, which was shuttered by the National Arts Council in March, also contains many public artworks for which the council is now searching for new homes.

Australia-based Singapore artist Tan Teng Kee, 70, told 'TODAY' by phone that he was asked by the National Parks Board, who told him of its plans to move one of his sculptures from the Marina City Park to Toa Payoh, to make way for Gardens by the Bay.

"It's plain rude not to inform an artist even if the work is only meant to be moved."

Protecting art

In an effort to assert what they see as their right to help decide the fate of their creations, artists are now re-looking the contracts they sign to supply commissioned works.

Their goal? To ensure that they are informed of any changes to the works or of plans to relocate them.

"We have included this clause in the contracts we formulate for artists since 2003," said Sculpture Square's Tay, though policies such as this seem to be the exception and not the rule.

What's more, unlike Australia for example, Singapore doesn't have a national committee to look into finding new homes for public art that might otherwise be destroyed.

While stricter laws and increased Government involvement might help overcome the existing problems, Poh advised artists to do more to look out for themselves. ...
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Last edited by Merlion : 04-20-2007 at 10:58 PM.
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  #2  
Old 04-21-2007, 02:05 AM
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Aaron Schroeder Aaron Schroeder is offline
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Re: Artists' Moral Ownersip of Commissioned Public Art

Something like this happened to me many years ago but it turned out to be a good thing. When in undergraduate school I made a fairly large sculptural weathervane out of steel and plexiglass, I lent it to the local public library and it sat on their front lawn for a couple of years. Then on a return trip home I noticed it was gone, I stop in at the library and inquired about it's location. Hearts froze and stress hormones surged. I was told that the person responsible for mowing the lawn complained on multiple occassions about mowing around my art and that when a regional architect inquired about the status of the piece, the new management saw an opportunity to end the complaints and just gave my sculpture away. So I called the architect and he fearing for his life opted to buy it, we set up a payment plan and it all work out in the end. If only this sort of thing could happen a few times a year, I'd be set. I try to keep track of every thing I've made but a few objects have slipped from my radar, I suppose I could find them if I really tried but I'm OK with the fact that they're gone for good. These day when I sell a piece I resign myself to the fact that my art is out of hand and that I may never see it again. I just let it go
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Old 04-21-2007, 02:12 AM
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Merlion Merlion is offline
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Re: Artists' Moral Ownersip of Commissioned Public Art

It is different Aaron. The issue here concerns commissioned works, or at least when the legal ownership has changed hand.

In your case, there probably was not a clear understand whether you gave your sculpture away. So the architect felt bad and offered to buy it when it was years later removed.
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Old 04-21-2007, 10:21 AM
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GlennT GlennT is offline
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Re: Artists' Moral Ownersip of Commissioned Public Art

Without passing judgement on the specific works in question, there is way too much in public art whereby it would be respectful to the people who walk by them to have the works removed. It would be respectful to the artist to notify them first, but you would have to be an optimist to expect that behavior from a corporate building manager.

The artist threatening legal action after having had the honor of being commissioned and having the work displayed publicly for many years is selfish and ungrateful. Not wanting to comment to deeply on the quality of the specific work, it apparently was not of the sort to pass the test of time. Work of enduring character would have resulted in a public outrage at its removal, rather than just the whining of the artist.

I understand the heartbreak of having your work removed, from personal experience. ( In my case, an elaborate coffee house mural painted over with solid yellow when ownership changed hands. Many of the regulars there stopped going there, perhaps as a result. ) The question is, as an artist, what are you going to do about it? Art museums change displays periodically, and some really great masterpieces sometimes end up in storage while others are brought out.
Were they alive today could you imagine Rubens or Bernini suing a museum if their works were not displayed in their accustomed spot?
They would just continue to produce more great works of art.

What a generation of whining non-problem solving individuals we have who look to the legal system to solve their disappoinments in life.
Instead of worrying about rights and hurt feelings, artists will generate more respect of their profession by reacting to the philistines of the art world in a dignified and perhaps philosophical manner.

GlennT
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Old 04-21-2007, 02:11 PM
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Re: Artists' Moral Ownersip of Commissioned Public Art

"What a generation of whining non-problem solving individuals we have who look to the legal system to solve their disappoinments in life."


Just get the dough and call it a day, can always rename it "Birds in a janitors closet" or something. Worse things happen to better people..
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Old 04-21-2007, 03:46 PM
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Re: Artists' Moral Ownersip of Commissioned Public Art

I'm with StevenW. I have built a lot of things among them about 30 Starbucks. As I go back I notice that my work is slowly being replaced with newer stuff. All my hard work will eventually wind up in the dumpster. That is just the way it is with public work, we are a throw away society. When houses or buildings are torn down to make way for new, are the architects or general contractors called? Value was exchanged for money, deal done.
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Old 04-21-2007, 05:19 PM
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StevenW StevenW is offline
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Re: Artists' Moral Ownersip of Commissioned Public Art

I'm getting up energy to go cut and feed the geese, but before I do: Once upon a time I was an Executive Chef with a nice clean coat. I fell in love with Ice sculpture and did many of them for all sorts of occasions, mostly swans for weddings and such, but I was too busy meeting deadlines to realize how much I loved doing it... One day my old boss told me something his old boss told him; Being a Chef is the loneliest profession there is, everything you create is immediately devoured and no matter how long you do it, you'll never be any better than your last meal.

I discovered rock years later by pure chance (if you believe in that sort of thing). I happened across Thom working in his gallery in Leadville when I stopped to take a pee ( http://www.barnard-art.com/marble.htm ). I looked around in awe and I asked him how he did it and he said "you just do it", and that was all the instruction I ever got. I talked with him about nothing for several hours and he finally handed me two small Yule "scrap" samples and I got my file and some sandpaper and the rest is well, whatever the rest is (since I'm still doing it). I'm working some Moroccan Satin Spar today and I'm as happy as a man can be. There's no such thing as "bad rock" to me because even though it melts too eventually, I won't be around to see it happen. I'd like to think that even if the rock ends up in a dusty old pawn shop for $1.99 that even that place will crumble before the rock does. No matter where it goes, it will continue to tell its story and be every bit as delicious to its inheritors as it was to the man who made it.

Maybe art needs some time in the closet before someone finds it delicious again and I'd rather see that happen than have it sit out in plain view of millions of disinterested, deadline driven fools.
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Old 04-21-2007, 10:27 PM
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evaldart evaldart is offline
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Re: Artists' Moral Ownersip of Commissioned Public Art

More than once I have been the one paid to dismantle my own work when new ownership or management decided a change was in order. Who better? they supposed. Fine by me, I got paid to make it, paid to tear it down and kept the scrap in the pile for the future. Everybody wins.

But all projects are not created equal and I would indeed feel a loss to discover that certain, significant pieces had been destroyed or done-away with without my knowledge. I would at least like the opportunity to remove it myself...I might do it for free. BUT THAT IS NOT UP TO ME. The thing belongs to the purchaser and if they want to hang their laundry on it so be it.

I have never had mixed emotions about seeing a piece sold and go bye-bye. That is always a good thing. Cavities in teeth cost 200 buck a pop these days for christs sake and I've got an 8 and 3 year old. They're certain to need braces too. I'll be spending some serious dough on non-ferrous metal and it aint gonna be for art.

But Glenn, I do recall a tad bit of whining by you about your lost mural.

I admit to being slightly disturbed once by finding out an acquantace had found one of my small pieces in the trash.

A friend of mine, disgusted over losing a gallery relationship, left all his painting on the side of the street in Soho. Then he came to his senses later in the evening, went to retrieve the paintings and was mortified to find that they were all still there,

Even Richard Serra, who I regard as the most intellectually advanced artist of the last 100 years, pitched a big silly fit over Tilted Arc's removal because lunching wall-streeters discovered the sculpture wasn't actually there to beautify their immediate environment.

But artists getting all litigious about it - what a big damn waste of everyones time and money.
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