Just a few days after a judge said that Mass MoCA could show Christoph Buchel’s disputed installation in an unfinished state, the museum has decided simply to clean the thing out altogether. Geoff Edgers has the story at The Boston Globe. Over at the museum’s website, Mass MoCA Director Joseph Thompson expresses his desire to move on and “to return to our core mission to serve as a experimental platform for art-making. ” Next up: a Jenny Holzer installation, Projections, set to open Nov. 17.
But not so fast. On his art law blog, Donn Zaretsky, who was one of Buchel’s attorneys, points out the enduring legal residue of this case. It appears to have created a court precedent that the Visual Artists Rights Act does not apply to unfinished work. If so, this is not a happy development. Artists have few enough protections under U.S. law. If the Buchel-Mass MoCA spat narrows the scope of VARA, then one of the most important legal safeguards they do enjoy will end up as collateral damage in this fight.
Does Jenny Holzer still do those “Truisms”? Let me suggest one for her Mass MoCA installation. “Even Well Meaning Institutions Can Sometimes Screw Up Big Time.”