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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Naming Rights on Artworks

posted by on August 5 at 15:09 PM


Earlier today I posted about PDL’s installation this past weekend at the Olympic Sculpture Park. With a sign of proposed land use, the artists announced a coming Starbucks sculpture. There’s no such sculpture coming—they did it to see how people would respond.

In the comments on that post, somebody named NG reminded me of this:

Actually, OSP already has a sponsored sculpture—the Neukom Vivarium. That entire building is the sculpture itself, not just the nurse log. The artist was involved in the sponsorship-naming process, and is purportedly fine with it.

Posted by NG | August 5, 2008 11:38 AM

Here’s what I know about how that went down: The press was given a list of the artworks prior to the opening, and on that list, the piece was called Seattle Vivarium. Then, shortly before the park opened, the sculpture took the name of the Neukom family of donors. The artist made the decision.

It’s not uncommon for artists to title works after the people who commission them or after collectors with whom they have some kind of ongoing or special relationship (see “Wright’s Triangle” by Richard Serra at WWU). I have a call into the museum to see whether Dion has any special relationship with the Neukoms. I have a vague memory of asking him about this amidst all the hubbub at the opening, and I don’t remember any special relationship coming up.

Even if there isn’t one, there’s nothing wrong with Dion titling the piece this way—he can do whatever he wants. Maybe I’m reaching here, but I suppose it’s also possible that he adopted the title to make a subtle point. Because his work is always exploring the systems that underlie objects, he could have decided to use the name to remind viewers of the system of philanthropy that undergirds a project like the OSP. Or not.

Either way, I’ve tried to think of other contemporary artworks that take donors’ names as their titles but are not inspired by the donors, and I’ve come up short. I even enlisted a couple curators. Anybody think of any?

UPDATE from museum spokeswoman Cara Egan, of the museum’s point of view: “Because the Vivarium is a park infrastructure project (its own building, structure, permit, etc.) it was determined to be a recognition/naming opportunity and approved by Mark Dion.”

RSS icon Comments


Andy Warhol, "Cornball Disaster 44 Times," 1963

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | August 5, 2008 3:31 PM

Do you consider architecture to be artwork? If so, there are plenty of examples on most college campuses.

Posted by john cocktosin | August 5, 2008 3:49 PM

Bruce Nauman's Helman Gallery Parallelogram?

Posted by Betsey | August 5, 2008 6:22 PM

Dan Flavin dedicated a lot of his works to friends and influences, and I think some were patrons but I haven't found a good example yet.

Posted by Eric F | August 5, 2008 6:49 PM

Ilona on top (Rose Background)

Posted by Cicciolina gave much | August 5, 2008 9:37 PM

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