U is for Unfinished

| May 4, 2014

Unfinished artwork triggers my brain to the Christopher Buchel and MassMoCA controversy. MassMoCA entered into an agreement with Buchel to have him create a work on their grounds. It was supposed to be Buchel’s first major US show about life during wartime. The project went extremely over budget from $160,000 to $300,000 leading to a dispute between Buchel and the museum. The museum thought that Buchel was being uncooperative and Buchel claimed there wasn’t a set budget for the project. The project was first postponed and then stopped all together. In May of 2007 the exhibition “Made at Mass MoCA” opened and ended at the space housing Buchel’s work. The museum covered the installation in tarps but allowed the public to walk through it. At the same time the museum was suing Buchel and hoping that they would be allowed to remove the tarps. The argument went public, MassMoCA’s director Thompson claiming that he had responsibility to the public and to the museum supporters to show the planned installation and Buchel claimed Mass MoCA was violating his rights as an artist under the Visual Rights Act of 1990.

The piece Training Ground for Democracy included objects such as a 35-foot oil tanker, a two-story house, a carousel of bombs, and a restored movie theater. Finally the court decided that MassMoCA could show the work even though it was unfinished which was a landmark decision for a VARA case.

Further explanation of VARA can be see in my next post. V is for VARA.

A lot details on this case written in a fascinating but long story is here.