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Pollock Matters, Catalog Dispute

Posted by Geoff Edgers  September 4, 2007 06:24 AM

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Remember how the Pollock-Krasner Foundation denied Boston College permission to reproduce images of authenticated Jackson Pollock paintings in its "Pollock Matters" catalog?

Then why is the catalog full of such images? I asked Nancy Netzer, the McMullen Museum of Art's director, this very question Saturday. She immediately provided me with a statement from Boston College.

"Following the Pollock Krasner Foundation's decision to withhold permission to reproduce works of Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock in the PollockMatters catalogue, Boston College worked closely with copyright counsel to produce a catalogue incorporating those images needed to publish our contributors' scholarship in conformity with fair use principles."

Naturally, the decision to use the images did not please Ron Spencer, the attorney who represents the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.

He said he intended to reach the Foundation's copyright lawyers, and to determine whether to take action. He said the Foundation didn't want the authentic Pollocks appearing next to the Alex Matter pictures for a simple reason. The Matter pictures - found in a storage locker five years ago, originally considered genuine Pollocks but later questioned when scientific studies found paints that could not have been around during the artist's lifetime - should not be mixed up with paintings known to have been done by the abstract expressionist master.

"They knew our reason, and they knew of our refusal," said Spencer. "For them to go ahead like this, it's strange, I wouldn't expect it from a public institution. If they thought they had a right to publish on a fair use basis, they could have told us this six months ago."

Spencer said he felt the decision to publish the pictures clears up the "mystery" regarding the timing of the catalog's release. Typically, a museum will allow critics, reporters and other interested parties to examine a catalog in advance of a show. The McMullen didn't make the catalog available until Saturday, opening day, and in the middle of Labor Day weekend. Spencer said he believes that was to prevent the Pollock-Krasner Foundation from getting a judge to block the catalog's release until he or she could weed through the copyright issues.

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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..
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