What obstacles do museums encounter in the process of collecting cultural heritage? What is the nature of the tension that ensues from the proliferation of mass information sharing (the Internet) on the one hand and copyright law, which imposes limits on information sharing, on the other? What does it mean for a museum to ‘possess’ a work of art. What is actually owned?
The Van Abbemuseum has invited the Danish artist collective, SUPERFLEX to work with the museum’s collection. They have responded with the exhibition In-between Minimalisms and a new work, FREE SOL LEWITT - an installation made specially for the second part of Play Van Abbe. The museum is sometimes described as a prison in which the artwork is ‘locked-away’ like a criminal. With FREE SOL LEWITT, the artists playfully ask the Van Abbemuseum to ‘set free’ the work of the American artist, Sol LeWitt, Untitled (Wall Structure), 1972.
The copy machine
In the FREE SOL LEWITT workshop a couple of workmen work daily on reproducing LeWitt’s Untitled (Wall Structure). LeWitt commissioned a company to produce the work in 1972. Now in 2010, LeWitt’s work is being reproduced in a museum room, where four tables have been set-up. Here, workmen cut the aluminium, weld it into a lattice structure, sand this form and then paint it white. The copies lie stacked in a corner awaiting their new destinations. They will then be distributed free-of-charge to the public through a random system which visitors to the museum can sign-up for. See the images of visitors whose forms were randomly selected and who picked up their copy.
The museum has the duty to collect and document cultural property and to make this accessible to stimulate critical reflection, so that fresh perspectives may be presented and new developments in the cultural and social fields made possible. Yet, copyright laws can potentially prevent the museum from being able to fulfil its task. What should the museum’s position be in the current information age where the capacity to share and exchange information is restricted by the economic interests protected by copyright?
FREE SOL LEWITT will be put into context by SUPERFLEX in the exhibition In-between Minimalisms, that comprises works by artists like Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Robert Morris, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Martha Rosler, Daniel Buren and Andy Warhol. These artworks come from the periods of Minimalist and Conceptual Art found in the Van Abbemuseum’s collection. Issues such as mass production, intellectual property, seriality and the artwork as concept are raised. One of the themes which runs like a red thread through In-between Minimalisms is the production method of an art work. SUPERFLEX is interested in the way in which artists like Carl Andre, Dan Flavin and Donald Judd made use of industrial production methods and serial repetition in the late Fifties and Sixties. Their works are distinguished by the use of basic materials like wood or metal, in structures industrially mass-produced. According to SUPERFLEX these works can be seen as photocopiers or prototypes of photocopiers. They suggest the possibility of being able to be mechanical reproduced ad infinitum. Conceptual art extends this possibility to the field of information, by separating the idea, the plans and instructions from the material execution of an art work.
Seminar and publication
On 14 May the seminar Who Owns the Artwork? (English spoken) takes place in the Van Abbemuseum. The aim of the seminar is to examine and discuss issues relating to authorship, copyright and the ownership of artworks by public institutions.
Read more about the seminar.
In May, a publication will appear that will include essays which will discuss the FREE SOL LEWITT project, installation photographs and an interview with SUPERFLEX and with the curators.