• August 22, 2018

Visual artists in the United States, defined as people who create unique and original visual experiences in any physical medium, are to capitalism as hedge fund managers are to socialism.

You can argue there is a positive correlation if you like, but it’s much easier to argue the negative. Some would argue that the relationship between art and capitalism is literally antithetical: to monetize art is to degrade it, at best, and possibly to destroy it.

(Aside: note that “visual artists” is a difficult term to define and, by our definition, arguably excludes any maker of unoriginal experiences, therefore arguably excluding famous art of Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, and many other works widely considered “art.”)

In short, it is almost impossible for visual artists (as defined here) to earn a living in our society, maybe because the very idea of a “market” for”art” lacks validity.

Bruce Munro, the creator of the work portrayed in the above image, is one of very few “successful” visual artists (defining “success” in a particular way, which some would disagree with strongly).

He calls his best-known works “Field of Light” and “Forest of Light,” describing them as “large-scale, immersive, light-based installations, and exhibitions.”

With this as background, one can appreciate the galling and bitter disappointment that Mr. Munro must have felt when he discussed an installation of his work in Boston, Massachusetts, with lucy [sic], a women’s active-wear company, only to have lucy break off discussions. Thereafter, lucy launched a light exhibition and advertising campaign in Boston, titled “Light Forest,” for which lucy apparently paid Mr. Munro not one penny.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.) threw out Mr. Munro’s case on a motion to dismiss.

This month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit largely affirmed the trial court’s dismissal but held that Mr. Munro’s trademark infringement claim can go forward. Congratulations to Mr. Munro and his lawyers, Mr. Carl F. Schwenker of Austin, Texas, and locally, Mr. Steven Theesfeld for the appellate win and we hope that Mr. Munro and his team can recover some money. There appears to be no question that lucy used and profited from Mr. Munro’s work. It is a lot easier to make millions and millions of dollars selling women’s active-wear than selling forests or fields of light.



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