Monday, January 15, 2007

Art and Morality

From my weekly (AM) radio segment titled "Legal Minute".

What if someone went and sprayed hot pink graffiti all over the Lincoln Memorial? The act would be an outrage. All civilized cultures throughout the ages recognize the moral duty to protect works of fine art. Federal and state law recognizes this duty and imposes it on all of us. The law give protection to the moral rights of artists. What that means is that each work of fine art carries with it a moral right of its creator requiring that no person deface, alter or destroy a work of fine art intentionally or with gross negligence. Gross negligence would be something like – letting your kids run around with water balloons in the Guggenheim. California gives any creator of fine art (and their heirs) a legal right of action during the artist’s life and for 50 years after death. So what is fine art anyway? Well, that depends on recognized standards and, if there are none, upon opinions of artists, art dealers, collectors and museum curators. For fine art, such as murals, that exist on buildings scheduled for demolition, the artist is entitled to receive notice and the opportunity to remove his or her work of art. Opinions may differ as to what is fine art but not on the desire that all fine art should be protected.