Ahoy, ahoy!

Ownership is a complicated business.  How we validate and regulate ownership of objects and properties is mainly tied up in legal forms and documents.  Contracts, agreements.  Sign on the dotted line, please.  We often do not give the process much though at all, unless an unprecedented circumstance arises in which the process is delayed or slowed.

Along with the advent of conceptual art, the lines of ownership become blurry.  All the artist may have really created is the concept of the art, and nothing else besides that.  An example that comes to mind would be Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs. Certain aspects of the work will change each time it is installed at a gallery.  The chair and the photograph of the chair are never the same, because the curator is to select a chair for the installment and then take a photograph of it, exactly as it is.  The results in varying installations of One and Three Chairs.

One and Three Chairs

One and Three Chairs

One and Three Chairs

As you can see from the three examples I have found of the installation, the physical chair is not the same one each time.  The only constant chair, which is the dictionary definition.  This is the only part of the work that Kosuth signed and it is put on display with the varying chairs each time.  What the galleries are paying for is the ability to use his idea in their exhibition.  One and Three Chairs was first conceptualized in 1965.  However, the artwork is still always changing, and the physical chair used does not belong to the artist.  It is the property of the gallery or the curator.  So how do we define who owns what part of the work?  Conceptual and theoretical art can prove to be thought provoking in many different ways!

That’s all!