You are on page 1of 5

Council for Artists' Rights

Dallas, TX Arts Institutions Vs. Artists Claes Oldenburg-

Coosje van Bruggen, Chapman Kelley and Stuart Kraft
Wildflower Artist to Dallas Museum of Art: 'Remove My Painting', DMA
Keeps Iconic Sculpture Stake Hitch Hidden, Were Pegasus Sculptor's
Moral Rights Violated?

June 1, 2010

Dear ally of artists' rights:

Arts institutions in Dallas, Texas have recently produced a trinity of instances where
living visual artists have had their work changed without permission, been denied
presentation of it, and restored without the makers' participation. These occurrences
strike at the heart of artists' moral rights and expand the conversation that is gaining
traction in the U.S. not unlike the early rumblings of the civil, women's and numerous
other rights movements.

The Council for Artists Rights has obtained a copy of a letter written by Dallas
wildflower artist Chapman Kelley to Bonnie Pitman, Director of the Dallas Museum of
Art. He asks that she remove his 1960 Texas Annual winning painting from the
museum's current exhibition:

"June 1, 2010

Dear Bonnie Pitman:

Please remove my painting ‘Sand Dune (1960) from your exhibition 'Coastlines:
Images of Land and Sea.'

If I had intended for it to include such added-on effects, I would have made it an
installation piece or a 'happening' with audio and visual effects of my own choosing. Or
perhaps have it submitted to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

This same ‘Sand Dune’ painting is the one which you declined to loan in 2008 to the
Longview Museum of Fine Arts (in East Texas).

Since you and your staff do not feel that my work can stand alone on its own merits, for
that, and for many other reasons, I can no longer feel honored being in this museum's
collection. Please return ‘Sand Dune’ to me I will refund the purchase price.

Chapman Kelley"

Well, it seems the DMA misunderstood the recent First Circuit Court of Appeals 2010
reversal of the dispute between Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Vs.
Christoph Büchel which covered. That decision clearly gives the artist the
moral right--under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 federal copyright statute, or
VARA--to determine the finish of a work of art vis-à-vis public exhibition. Further, the
appeal court's ruling disallowed Mass MoCA's contention that it was co-author of
Büchel's installation piece Training Ground for Democracy.

We are not alone in voicing a concern about the perception of "Coastlines" being--
excuse the cliché--a dog and pony show. Arts writer Peter Simek of Texas-based D
Magazine criticized the show on May 6 and concluded:

"There is no avoiding the sound in 'Coastlines'... It just suggests a low regard for
the power of visual art - that regular people can't encounter artwork on its own, but
rather they have to be helped towards an emotional response to the work through a
sonic nudge. Perhaps we have our first art exhibition where instead of handing out
headphones at the entrance, viewers could have the option of choosing earplugs."

Another example of a living artist being discounted concerns Stake Hitch, an immensely
popular sculpture by internationally known artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van
Bruggen. The work has been kept from public view by the DMA for years, which was
not supposed to be the case. In the May 2010 issue of D Magazine, Southern
Methodist University Professor Willard Spiegelman wrote “The Dallas Museum of Art's
Broken Promise: They promised to reinstall the iconic Stake Hitch. But it's still missing.”
In the wake of Spiegelman's article, an outraged arts activist created the Facebook
page "Reinstall Claes Oldenburg's Stake Hitch to the Dallas Museum of Art's barrel

The DMA is adamant in its refusal to resurrect the colossal piece. That reluctance to
reinstall calls into question the museum's attitude toward Oldenburg and the late van
Bruggen and tarnishes its credibility in the eyes of devotees of public art. The Council
for Artists Rights has relayed a communication to Oldenburg and is awaiting a directive.

The callous removal of Stake Hitch and Kelley's "withdraw my painting" request drives
the perception of a museum having a certain arrogance, of being cloaked in a cavalier
attitude and showing a disrespect for living artists, of the artwork themselves, as well as
the public.

Lastly, the restoration by the Dallas Independent School District of the outdoor
sculpture Pegasus has been completed. It was rededicated in May 2010 at its location
on the campus of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
However, the restoration has left Pegasus monument sculptor Stuart Kraft wondering if
his moral rights under VARA or another section of copyright law have been violated. As
Artist in Residence, in 1984 he collaborated with students and their teacher Jerry Daniel
on creating Pegasus. Kraft says the restored Pegasus was "substantially modified
without permission of the (original) participants...we dreamed, designed, built the model
and sculpture as a group. We should have been consulted as a group." That raises the
question of whether or not Kraft and his collaborators' artistic vision could be properly
carried out without their direct involvement. He credits the school's alumni for "saving"
Pegasus. Kraft has been Traveling Artist in Education for the Texas Commission on
Arts since 1977.

A restoration case having similarities with Pegasus was reported on by Chicago IP

Litigation blog as recently as 2008 when internationally known sculptor Yaacov Agam
disputed the restoration of his Chicago work Communication X9. According to the
Chicago Tribune, Agam's counsel indicated VARA was not applicable because it was
created before the statute's enactment, but said the broader copyright law would apply
because the restored work was a derivative of the original. Not all artwork created
before 1990 is automatically disqualified for protection under VARA.


Chapman Kelley is a painter whose roots in the artists' rights movement can be traced
to Dallas, TX beginning in the 1960s. He is currently the plaintiff in the landmark VARA
case Chapman Kelley Vs. Chicago Park District. A Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
precedent-setting decision is imminent. In the autumn of 2004 Kelley filed a lawsuit to
protect his artist's moral rights immediately after the CPD irrevocably altered--without
Kelley's permission--his celebrated 66,000 sq.ft. public artwork the Chicago Wildflower
Works. In 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Coar in Chicago deemed CWW could be
considered either a painting or a sculpture under VARA. However, Coar denied
protection under VARA because CWW was unoriginal and site-specific. Kelley
appealed the dispute to reverse those unfavorable rulings. As litigant in this important
case, Kelley is essentially the "poster boy" for artists' rights in the U.S. He likens his role
in advocating for artists' rights to that of the plaintiffs in the historic Roe vs. Wade and
Brown vs. Board of Education of the women's and civil rights movement, respectively.
Samuel Shannon Blain Jr., former long-time resident of Dallas, shares his thoughts
about Kelley: "As an art historian specializing in Texas' art history, for several decades, I
have become well aware of the fact, no single individual in the history of Texas has
been more involved in the artists' rights movement than Chapman Kelley. He is Texas'
contribution to that movement as not only a "credentialed" professional artist-painter,
but, also as a "respected" art teacher, art dealer and art lecturer. The Texas art scene,
its artists, art students and art collectors have all benefited greatly from his involvement
and participation for over fifty years."

Some of Kelley's former students' work is in the collection of the Guggenheim, the
Whitney and the Metropolitan. Two have had their work shown at the Venice Biennale
and recently two have had books written about them. In addition to teaching art classes
at the DMA and privately, as owner-operator Kelley ran Dallas' most successful art
gallery at the time. He not only was showing the best known Texas artists of the 1950s,
1960s and 1970s, he advised the most ambitious collectors of Dallas and beyond who
were acquiring work ranging from French Impressionism to Sharp Focus Realism and
every significant movement in between. Some of those collections have become the
most valuable in Dallas.

Request for Texas materials of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s

Sam Blain, as principal writer, is currently writing a book about the Texas art scene. In
it, heroes and villains of the Dallas art world during its "Golden Years," the 1950s 1960s
and 1970s, will be revealed as to how they advanced or hindered the visual arts during
that period. The book will be made possible by your submission. The material
submitted may be a photo, personal remembrance, historical document, movie or audio
recording. Multiple types of items are welcome. Without your help this book project
cannot become a reality. We encourage you to submit items for this effort and we look
forward to receiving them in the coming months. All materials may be sent directly to
Chapman Kelley 1811 Greenville Ave. #3140, Dallas, Texas 75206.

In keeping with Kelley's more than half century tradition of self-representation, he can
be reached via his website.

The Council for Artists Rights is based in Chicago, IL USA. As arts activist, its thrust
is to educate the public about artists' rights and advocates for artists whose work is in
distress. CFAR was spontaneously born in 2004 when devotees of public art learned a
city park district had irrevocably altered--without its creator's permission--a 20 year old
work of public art.

Recognition of CFAR founding member John Viramontes:

Honoree, Huffington Post blogger Esther J. Cepeda's Chicago Latino List 2009.
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation

The Council for Artists Rights is fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas, a 501 (c)(3)
public nonprofit. Making a small donation is easy and can be done safely online.

All contributions are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

You might also like