Art collector, dealers seek to dismiss lawsuit over Cady Noland sculpture

A messy legal battle involving artist Cady Noland, a collector, and three art dealers raises questions about copyright in works of art and the lines between art conservation and forgery. Last July, the elusive artist filed a lawsuit claiming that the collector and dealers had infringed the copyright of his work. Log Cabin Blank with screw eyes and cafe door (Memorial to John Caldwell), 1990, by hiring a restorer to repair the sculpture in depth, the wood of which was beginning to rot. Noland argued that by redoing parts of the artwork – which consists of a cabin facade made by a commercial company and an American flag – the collector and dealers committed infringement and she demanded that the artwork be destroyed. . Noland then sued the collector Wilhelm Schurmann, who purchased the work shortly after its creation; the KOW Gallery in Berlin, which exhibited the piece in 2011; art dealer and advisor Chris D’Amelio; Michael Janssen Gallery; and Janssen himself, who sold Log cabin to Ohio collector Scott Mueller for $1.4 million in 2014.

Now, in a motion filed last month to dismiss the case, the defendants suggest Noland’s lawsuit is a way for the artist to defy the market, calling the accusation a ‘desperate but futile search for a cause. ‘action, by an artist’. with a history of trying to prevent the sale of artwork created by her,” according to Artnet. Additionally, the collector and dealers claimed that the work was too generic to be copyrighted. “Placing two American flags on a log cabin facade enough to warrant copyright protection, then any log cabin owner who affixes a similar patriotic symbol to the front of their home could be considered an infringer via the creation of an unauthorized derivative work”, writes the lawyer for the collector and the dealers. Defendants say it’s the concept behind the work that makes it art, not its physical aspects. Defendants also argue that if the subject matter cannot be copyrighted – and since the idea itself cannot – they cannot be held liable for copyright infringement. .

The artist’s lawyers claim that the design of the work is inseparable from its concept. “Obviously the Copyright Office does not understand contemporary art,” wrote Noland’s attorney. “Norland did not design garden sheds and did not attempt to seek copyright protection for her design. Instead, she made a sculpture that was neither a house nor a garden shed. garden, nor a shelter, and strategically draped his iconic American flags over one of the “window” openings.

Noland, who is no stranger to legal controversy and is notoriously opposed to interviews, provided an affidavit to the judge this week. “I don’t think it’s hard to work with me,” Noland said, adding that she herself had recently repaired many works of art so they could be sold. “I just don’t want anyone to change, modify or destroy my art,” she said. The case has not yet been judged.

Norma D. Ross