Museum image fees - a call to arms (ctd.)

October 23 2017

Image of Museum image fees - a call to arms (ctd.)

Picture: Tate

Further to my post below, it seems there's another case of Tate misbehaving when it comes to charging fees for out of copyright artworks. When the Art Fund provides funding for an acquisition it makes all manner of stipulations, right down to the logo that must be used on the wall label accompanying a painting. According to their current grant conditions, an institution must provide free images for scholarly and academic use. Here's the relevant passage (paragraph D.16.e):

Supply of images to third parties. The Beneficiary will not charge any copyright fee when it supplies images of the Art Fund-assisted Object to third parties to be reproduced in academic, educational or scholarly publications, provided that (a) the print run for the publication (including any reprints) does not exceed 3,000, and (b) images are reproduced inside the publication and not on the book jacket or outside cover. 

Let's pick a high profile case of an Art Fund supported acquisition at Tate - Turner's Blue Rigi (acquired for £4.95m in 2007, with £500k from the Art Fund). If we go to Tate's image licensing website it soon becomes clear that Tate is ignoring the Art Fund's stipulations. For example, to use an image of the Blue Rigi just in a single, free, academic lecture the cost is £20. To reproduce the image in an academic book with a print run of 500 is £45, with £57 for a print run of 1,000, and £61 for a print run of 'up to 3,000'. That is explicitly contrary to what the Art Fund demands.

This is just one example of how iniquitous current museum policies are when it comes to image reproduction fees. It also shows how much museum time and money must go into organising and policing current fee structures. Far better to just allow free image use, as other insitutions are increasingly finding. If the Art Fund were to stipulate that from now on the images all artworks they fund must be made freely available, I'm sure we could make progress towards abolishing fees altogether. Come on Art Fund!

Update - The Art Fund conditions mention 'a copyright fee' as if it relates to all works. But as I  point out in the below post, there is of course no 'copyright' in most works the Art Fund helps institutions acquire (ie those paintined by an artist who died more than 75 years ago).  

Museum image fees - a call to arms (ctd.)

October 23 2017

Image of Museum image fees - a call to arms (ctd.)

Picture: Tate

Further to my various posts (here and here) on UK museums and their increasingly absurd reproduction fee policies, a reader has investigated in detail the exact wording of the Creative Commons licences that many UK museums rely on. He has found that museums are in fact acting against the spirit and letter of the licences, and have wrongly changed the terms of the licence to specifically make it easier to charge extra fees - especially in regard to academic use. And by doing so these museums are actually forfeiting their ability to use Creative Commons licenses.

First, a quick word on what a Creative Commons license is, from the CC website:

The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work.

Now for the details - the reader writes:

Have you looked much at Creative Commons licences? Tate gets to sound all open and liberal by using one, but actually they don’t abide by either the spirit or the letter. [...]

Tate uses a "CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0" licence. On the Creative Commons website it says ‘you may not apply legal terms or technical measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.' But that is the very thing Tate has done when they state what 'a commercial' use is.

The original CC licence itself (section 4.b, here) states merely that “You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in Section 3 above in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.” But Tate’s version of the licence’s non-commercial stipulation goes further: “Creative Commons defines commercial use as ‘reproducing a work in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or monetary compensation’". Tate further defines commercial use as ‘use on or in anything that itself is charged for, on or in anything connected with something that is charged for, or on or in anything intended to make a profit or to cover costs.’ “ (here).

Also Tate say: “The image can be used only in contexts that are free from monetary gain or commercial value. Images cannot be used to sell or promote something; they cannot be used in or on something that is charged for or associated with money; nor can they be used in advertising or design contexts. Images cannot be used by commercial companies, charities or organizations that charge entrance fees, membership, or subscription to a service.” (on this page) and on the same page they clarify that a “commercial context [is] (anything that has a monetary value, is promotional or related to a commercial company or charity)”.

So they’ve gone from ‘primarily intended for… commercial advantage’ to entirely ‘free from monetary gain’; and from ‘monetary gain’ - profit or income - to ‘monetary value.’

Associating commercial use with economic gain is fair enough - we can debate its limits of course. But leaping from gain to mere value is huge and bonkers. Literally everything in our world has economic value. We live in a massively commercialised society: how can Tate’s images be used in any context not ‘associated with money’, ’in contexts that are free from …commercial value.’?

Bonkers indeed. But the major point here is that in their actions institutions like Tate have forfeited the right to use Creative Commons licences. The whole basis of their policy for distributing images and charging fees is actually invalid. Here is the relevant part of the Creative Commons rules, from CC's FAQ page:

Can I change the license terms or conditions?

Yes—but if you change the terms and conditions of any Creative Commons license, you must no longer call, label, or describe the license as a “Creative Commons” or “CC” license, nor can you use the Creative Commons logos, buttons, or other trademarks in connection with the modified license or your materials. Keep in mind that altering terms and conditions is distinct from waiving existing conditions or granting additional permissions than those in the licenses. Licensors may always do so, and many choose to do so using the CC+ protocol to readily signal the waiver or additional permission on the CC license deed.

As our reader here concludes (not least because institutions like Tate and the British Museum use the Creative Commons name and logo on their websites)

It’s clear, then, that both the BM and Tate are breaking the terms of Creative Commons licences.

Update - another entry on the Creative Commons FAQ page reveals that institutions like Tate should not be claiming copyright on the vast majority of works for which they are selling licenses:

If I take a photograph of another work that is in the public domain [ie, a painting hanging on a museum wall], can I apply a CC license to my photo?

That depends. You can apply a CC license to your photograph if your photograph constitutes a work of original authorship, a question that varies by jurisdiction. As a general matter, your photograph must involve some creative choices, such as background setting, lighting, angle, or other mark of creativity. In the United States, an exact photographic copy of a public domain work is not subject to copyright because there is no originality (even if there is effort or “sweat” exerted in its creation).

Although there has been no definitive ruling in Europe, it's highly unlikely that a test case would arrive at a different rulling than in the US. 

Me on connoisseurship! (ctd.)

October 23 2017

Image of Me on connoisseurship! (ctd.)

Picture: Martin Postle

I've been meaning to post this link to a discussion I was involved in on BBC Radio 4's 'Front Row' programme, about connoisseurship. The premise was 'is connoisseurship in crisis?', and I argued that it was, because sadly it's not taught enough in art history courses. Therefore, not enough art history graduates leave university knowing the basics of how to tell who painted what, when. Slightly to my surprise, my felow guest, Professor Alison Wright, head of the art history department at UCL, said that "connoisseurship is a tool amongst many, and it's not one we do teach in that sense, partly because to some degree it's not teachable...". 

Now I'm used to hearing the argument that connoisseurship is not worth teaching, because things like authorship and originality are not important. But I don't often hear leading teachers of art history say that actually you can't teach it at all. 

Of course, like any skill or process, connoisseurship certainly can be taught. I hope to give just a small taste of how to do it at the Royal Academy in December for one of the RA's short courses. We're in the final stages of planing how the weekend might work. Of course, we can't make people into connoisseurs in a weekend, but we hope to at least demonstrate the basics. If you're coming, thanks for booking - it's going to be fun! (The course is sold out, but we're likely to run it again next year.) We will be doing all the things that some of the more trendy art historians hate - including the sin of sins, making 'value judgements'. 

Update - a former head of a UK university history of art department writes:

At the risk of appearing completely obsolete academically, allow me to agree with you that connoisseurship can be taught.  Today universities are as concerned with teaching 'transferable skills' as they are with developing intellectual capabilities: for an art historian, the ability to examine works of art for authenticity and to make (or unmake) attributions is an essential professional competence which anyone with pretensions to knowledge should possess.  It is simply not the case that the essentials cannot be taught, which is not the same as simply not teaching them in the first place.  When I was a BA student we learned a lot of what has been thrown out of the art history curriculum today, including the basics of how to analyse stylistic information in conjunction with material and other evidence because it was assumed we might go on to work in museums, as academics or in the art market where we would develop and refine skills regarded as professionally essential.  Since then of course, art history has indeed broadened its intellectual concerns and expanded into important and enriching new approaches to understanding the contexts in which images are created, consumed and comprehended - all of them offering new and enlightening perceptions for interpreting visual culture which have transformed the subject from one in which scholarship prevailed to one in which theory predominates.  Art's histories are now more concerned with discourse and debate than with art's history - a graduate is more likely to know about Foucault than Fouquet.  

I would agree that connoisseurship is an acquired skill, but in my experience it is something which students appreciate learning about, not least because it is a fundamental practical application of what underpins their subject and its history.  I think I was probably the last person in a British university to teach a course with the word in its title: 'Objects as Evidence. Science, Connoisseurship and Art History'.  It introduced students to visual and material analysis, attribution and authenticity, provenance, collecting history, condition, conservation, forgery and what they had to teach art historians.  More than ten years on I still hear from graduates who say they use what they learned from it.  Of course, it was only a starter, but it had the merit of showing them that anyone can acquire and develop what it takes to be a 'connoisseur' with practice, and far from being something 'exclusive' it made the study and scholarship of art more accessible, not less.  And in an academic world increasingly expected to deliver employability, it had an additional benefit: as well as curators and art dealers, it encouraged several students to go on to become successful conservators.

One of those reader comments that I will treasure. Thanks!

Marc & Bella Chagall - art history's greatest love story?

October 23 2017

Video: Sotheby's

Sotheby's are selling an important Chagall in November, Les Amourex, and have interviewed Chagall's granddaughter, Bella Meyer about Chagall's relationship with his wife, Bella. 

Nicked: Stanley Spencer painting (ctd.)

October 23 2017

Image of Nicked: Stanley Spencer painting (ctd.)

Picture: BBC

A painting by Stanley Spencer, Cookham from Englefield, which was stolen from the Stanley Spencer gallery in Berkshire in 2012, has been recovered. It was found after two drug dealers were arrested for carryiing 1kg of cocaine in a car. Police searched a number of other connected properties, and found the painting. It belonged to a private owner, who had lent it to the gallery. Detective Inspector Andy Whitewood, of the Metropolitan Police’s organised crime command, said:

“A search of Fisher’s address revealed a stolen £1m painting. This demonstrates the link between drugs trafficking and serious, acquisitive crime. I am pleased to say that the painting has now been returned to the art gallery from where it was stolen. The guilty pleas entered by both men were due to the weight of the evidence against them and are a testimony to the depth of the investigation.

More on the case here.

It's often said that criminals steal valuable paintings to act as collateral in things like drug deals, and this must I presume be a case in point. For more on the phenomenon, see a 2013 piece in The Telegraph by Alistair Sooke here

Trump's fake Renoir (ctd.)

October 20 2017

Image of Trump's fake Renoir (ctd.)

Picture: BBC/Chicago Institute of Art

Last year I reported that Donald Trump had a fake Renoir hanging in his New York appartment - a copy of La Loge from the Courtauld Institute in London. Now it turns out he has another one, this time a copy of Two Sisters (On the Terrace) from the Chicago Institute of Art (above). Trump was said by writer Tim O'Brien to have claimed that his version (seen in the background of an interview with Melania Trump in New York, below) was real. Now, the Chicago museum has been obliged to tell the media that it is "satisfied that our version is real".


'Mystery' over Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi'

October 20 2017

Image of 'Mystery' over Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi'

Picture: Robert Simon Fine Art

There was a curious story in The Guardian yesterday about Leonardo’s ‘Salvator Mundi’. It was headlined, and began, thus:

"Mystery over Christ’s orb in $100m Leonardo da Vinci painting.

Crystal sphere in Salvator Mundi artwork lacks optical exactitude, prompting experts to speculate over motive and authenticity."

The story focused on the views of Walter Isaacson, who has just published a new biography of Leonardo. It looks good, and there's an in depth review of it here in The New Yorker. Isaacson was quoted discussing the orb in Christ's hand:

But in a forthcoming study, Leonardo da Vinci: the Biography, Walter Isaacson questions why an artistic genius, scientist, inventor, and engineer showed an “unusual lapse or unwillingness” to link art and science in depicting the orb.

He writes: “In one respect, it is rendered with beautiful scientific precision … But Leonardo failed to paint the distortion that would occur when looking through a solid clear orb at objects that are not touching the orb.

“Solid glass or crystal, whether shaped like an orb or a lens, produces magnified, inverted, and reversed images. Instead, Leonardo painted the orb as if it were a hollow glass bubble that does not refract or distort the light passing through it.”

He argues that if Leonardo had accurately depicted the distortions, the palm touching the orb would have remained the way he painted it, but hovering inside the orb would be a reduced and inverted mirror image of Christ’s robes and arm.

All of which might lead you to believe that Issacson did not think the painting was by Leonardo, or at least was raising serious questions. But on his Facebook page, Isaacson writes:

Just to be very clear, this article leaves a bit of a false impression. In my new book, I state clearly and unequivocally that this painting of Salvator Mundi is by Leonardo. And I explore the reasons that he did not show the crystal orb distorting the robes of Christ. I say it was a conscious decision on Leonardo's part. I do not say in my book, nor did I say in the interview, nor do I believe, that anyone but Leonardo painted this painting. I believe he made a decision to paint the crystal orb in a way that is miraculous and not distracting. All of the art experts I know agree, from Martin Kemp to Luke Syson.

So that’s that; nothing to see here. And please don’t be at all persuaded by the attempt, elsewhere in the article, to use Wenceslaus Hollar's engraving of the Salvator Mundi to cast doubt on the painting. It has been suggested that because the engraving shows some small, in some cases actually imperceptible, differences to the painting at Christie’s, then the painting at Christie’s might not be the painting which was engraved. This is fantasy art history. First, such differences reflect more on Hollar’s ability as an engraver than the painting. Second, compare other examples of Hollar’s engravings with the paintings to which they relate and you will see that he regularly altered aspects of the composition. Third, we cannot know how long Hollar had to study the original. Finally, Hollar saw the painting more than one hundred years after it was painted. Who knows what might have happened to it in that period?

Update - for more on the orb in the picture, see Martin Kemp's take here

Charles Rennie Mackintosh watercolour acquired by SNG

October 20 2017

Image of Charles Rennie Mackintosh watercolour acquired by SNG

Picture: NGS

The Scottish National Gallery has acquired a rare watercolour by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Says the press release:

An outstanding, rare watercolour by the world-renowned artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) has been acquired for the nation at auction. The new acquisition will go on show at the Scottish National Gallery (SNG) for the first time this autumn.

The Road Through the Rocks, a beautiful view of a southern French landscape painted between 1926 and 1927, was purchased at the Edinburgh auction house Lyon & Turnbull for £65,000. It will feature in a display at the Gallery which runs from 20 October to mid-January 2018, coinciding with the 150th anniversary celebrations of the acclaimed artist’s birth.

The striking watercolour will be displayed alongside Mont Alba, the Galleries’ only other Mackintosh watercolour and three Mackintosh watercolours on long loan to the Galleries, including Palalda, Pyrénées-Orientales, an intricate view of a picturesque hill village.

More here.

A Guido Reni upgrade

October 20 2017

Image of A Guido Reni upgrade

Picture: National Gallery

The National Gallery in London has recently cleaned a painting thought to be from the studio of Guido Reni, and has found that it is in fact by the man himself. The Toilet of Venus has now gone on display, and the NG's website says:

Several versions of this composition are known and this painting was long thought to be a copy made in Reni’s studio. However, recent conservation treatment has revealed far more of Reni’s hand at work than had previously been visible. The feathery brushstrokes on the central Grace’s arm, for example, are typical of Reni’s style. Visible changes to the picture’s design, such as the traces of pink drapery on Venus’s belly, show the artist working out his design. Infrared reflectography revealed more substantial changes, such as the addition of the putto at top left over a previously painted architectural scheme. These substantial changes, made during the painting process, not only strengthen the argument that this is the original composition on which other versions are based, but also tally with contemporary accounts that Reni delayed delivery of the painting in order to add in an entirely new figure.

An astute Twitter user has noticed that the painting was given to the National Gallery by King William IV along with another painting, Perseus and Andromeda. This painting, now very dirty and hard to make out, is also regarded as 'after Reni'. Might a clean reveal something new?

'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' (ctd.)

October 18 2017

Video: BBC

Tonight's episode of 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' is the last in this series. We investigate a possible painting by Anthonis Mor. BBC4 9pm!

There's a Brueghel in our public library? Sell it!

October 18 2017

Image of There's a Brueghel in our public library? Sell it!

Picture: ArtUK

There's been yet another move here in the UK to sell paintings in local public collections. In Arbroath, in North East Scotland, a Liberal Democrat councillor has suggested two large paintings by Peter Brueghel the Younger should be sold to plug holes in the council's budget. The pictures, The Adoration of the Magi (above) and Saint John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness, were given to the people of Arbroath in the 19th century and hang in the local library. They are worth many millions of pounds.

The Times covered the story yesterday, quoting yours truly in full on how dare you sell these pictures! mode. But Councillor Lawrie had this to say:

“I’m sure they’re of significant cultural value but I don’t see how this benefits the average Angus resident,” Mr Lawrie said.


By coincidence, the pictures will be featured on tonight's episode of 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces', on BBC4 at 9pm. We will be visiting a fascinating local arts centre in Arbroath called Hospitalfield, to look at a mystery 16th Century portrait. It so happens that there are plans to build a new gallery at Hospitalfield to display the Brueghels - but if I was involved in these plans I'd be alarmed by any indication that the council might sell the paintings instead. What would be the point in building a new gallery?

Update - Councillor Lawrie tweets in response to my comments:

I’m a proud philistine if that means trying to find all options to fund health and social care.

Does he not accept that museums and art have proven health and social benefits?

Update II - in response to the story, here are some wise words from the director of Hospitalfield, Lucy Byatt. 

'The Vermeer Phenomenon'

October 18 2017

Video: NGA

Here's an interesting lecture from Arthur K Wheelock Jnr of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC about the NGA's momentous Vermeer exhibition in 1995 - how the show came about, how it was put together, and how it changed public perceptions of Vermeer. The lecture was given in 2015, but has just now been put on the NGA's You Tube page, probably in connection with the opening of a new Vermeer exhibition there, Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting (till Jan 21 2108).

Bowes Museum show in London (ctd.)

October 18 2017

Video: Wallace Collection

Here's Wallace Collection director Xavier Bray on some highlights of the Wallace's new exhibition featuring loaned Spanish paintings from the Bowes Museum.

More museum directors should do this - five minutes and a iPhone is all you need!

Dobson's mystery sitter?

October 16 2017

Video: ZCZ Films

Regular readers will know that Waldemar Januszczak is an expert on English 17thC portraitist William Dobson - and in the video above he proposes a new identification for a mystery sitter in one of Dobson's best group portraits, Sir William Russell.


October 16 2017

Image of ArtUK

Picture: ArtUK

The invaluable ArtUK website has had over 3 million users since it launched in February last year. Director Any Ellis's newsletter says:

Since the website’s launch in February 2016 we have had over three million unique users with half of this traffic coming from overseas. Average time on the site is running at about 4½ minutes, which is high compared to most museum sites. Traffic in the last few months has been running about 10% up on equivalent months last year.

I've written a piece for the ArtUK's blog on how useful the site was for our second series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces

Running ArtUK is an expensive business, and they need all the help they can get. If you're minded to donate, you can do so here

Waldemar on Basquiat

October 16 2017

Video: Barbican

The Great Waldemar is on form in this review of the new Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican in London, which he describes as:

[...] a noisy hagiography at the Barbican that bills itself as “the first large-scale exhibition in the UK” of Basquiat’s work. In language that the Maezawas of this world would understand, the show airily describes him as “one of the most significant artists of the 20th century” and promises a radical new reading of his achievements.

I went into it chuckling in avuncular fashion about the hype. But I came out angry. OMG. This really is what the art world has become: a shallow, uneducated, disingenuous, over-moneyed, rapacious chewer-up of proper artistic values.

I like Basquiat as much as the next person - but I'll eat my trousers if, in ten year's time, his work is still selling for as much (in real terms) as it is today. AHNers, hold me to it.

TAN podcast no.5

October 16 2017

Audio: TAN

The latest Art Newspaper podcast is out, and it discusses the forthcoming auction at Christie's of Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi'.

Birmingham's 'haunted painting'

October 16 2017

Video: Birmingham Mail

A pyschic in Birmingham has declared his painting 'haunted' after 'strange things' happened to people who owned it. Apparently one woman fainted, and dogs certainly don't like it. The thing is, he doesn't know who painted it, or what the subject is. Can anyone help? 

More here

'The Audacity of Christian Art'

October 12 2017

Video: National Gallery

This looks good - a new series of videos from the National Gallery in London on Christian art, with Curator in Art and Religion, Dr Chloe Reddaway. More here

'Britain's Lost... Galleries'?

October 12 2017

Image of 'Britain's Lost... Galleries'?

Picture: TAN 

Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper reports that in Leeds Art Gallery, they've discovered a whole new gallery they didn't know about! More here

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