Foiled Again

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The Life Tree

Pieces from the pen and ink on etching paper composition called “The Life Tree”, by Miguel Arboleda, 1992

It’s the morning of the 26th and I’ve been up all night, unable to sleep. After lying in the dark listening to the voices in my head I finally decided to just get up and battle the demons with the light of my desk lamp and the reach of the computer screen, where at least I can talk back. I was hoping to get through this holiday season with some measure of stillness in my heart, but I guess the holidays always shake loose some of the frayed ends.

Aside from the usual wrestling with relationships, one particular incident from the last three weeks kept surfacing: the exchange I had with someone who had been in charge of an art exhibition I did 12 years ago, but whom I hadn’t heard from since the exhibition. Suddenly, out of the blue, he contacted me three weeks ago, informing me of the final showing of my pieces that I had left at the hosting hall, a reception for all the artists, and the upcoming auction of my artwork. I was furious; though I had left the artwork there, I had never been informed about the necessity to remove them or they would become the property of the art house. Now they were going to be sold, for money, even though they had never been purchased from me or even approved for ownership.

I wrote to the guy in charge and told him that I would not allow my artwork to be sold. He sent back this (excerpt) note:

”Regarding the images called life-tree I have to inform you that they are
the property of the OAG. One of my request 11 years ago was to clean them
out of the OAG, you and also A. did not responded to that request, later
they have been technically disposed.

“Regarding collections, internationally their is no need to inform artist if
you have an in-house show, the OAG exhibition space is the property of the
OAG and we can present our collection whenever we like.

“Don’t waste time, be happy that we did not destroyed your work, and I hope
to see you at the auction on the 16th of March 2005 at the OAG.”

I would understand if I had been contacted about the possibility of clearing the artwork out, but since I had never received any notice from him I don’t see how, legally, he can claim that my artwork belongs to the art house. What makes me even more angry is that the whole art exhibition was not an officially sponsored event; it was just a friendly showing between the man in question and another friend. He had offered the space for free.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m a buffoon for letting myself get duped two times in one year, but I’m tired of feeling helpless while work that I did gets used for profit by others. Then again, since the work was hurriedly done in the first place and I wasn’t very happy with it, maybe if I did the entire composition again, but this time with more detail and care, I might come out of the whole disappointment in so-called “friends” with a feeling of accomplishment.

Would any artists are there have any legal advice on this?

So ironic… the art piece is about the destruction of the earth and about the loneliness of human beings in their commercialized world. Seems no one ever gets the point.

One Response

  1. OnceWritten

    Wow. I just came across this. This guy has plain stolen your work. This doesn’t sound like anything more than someone making up their own rules as they go along. Even if they had that rule (and it was legal), where is their proof that you were notified (receipt of a registered letter, for example). I would have thought you could have gone there and just taken your work since the fellow had no legal right to it, as far as I can see. The nerve of him inviting you and the “don’t worry , be happy” response. I don’t know what the OAG is but it can’t be a very reputable place, run as it is by the art-world yakuza. This is very clearly a warning for artists to be extra-careful around “friends”.

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