Associazione Arte Sella is the Enemy, Flickr is the Enabler — Public Art Wants to Be Free

CRW 2236

I was disappointed today to receive an email from one of my Flickr contacts Davide Bedin. According to Bedin he recently received the following email message from Flickr:

“We have received a Notice of Infringement from [Associazione Arte Sella] via the Yahoo! Copyright Team and have removed the photo “CRW 2322″ from your photostream.”

Davide’s crime of infringement? He took a photo of a public art installation along a public freely accessible walking path in Italy. If you can read Italian, here is Davide’s original blog post on his predicament here. The photo above is one of Davide’s photos taken from this location. It would appear that Arte Sella is a series of Andy Goldsworthy like sculptures mixed in amongst the nature of Italy’s Sella Valley.

It is insipid to me that a large scale public art installation like Arte Sella would seek to have images deleted from the internet. To me this installation is similar in nature to Christo’s “The Gates” in New York’s Central Park, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate “The Bean” in Chicago or Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen “Cupid’s Span,” which sits outside my window as I write this post in San Francisco — and which I’ve photographed many times myself. These are large scale public works meant to be enjoyed by the public.

Arte Sella is doing the world a disservice. Part of the point of art is to make the world a more beautiful place. It’s to make the world a more interesting place. It’s to enrich our lives, to make us think, to provoke us to confront things in ourselves, to explore the creative process. The problem with Arte Sella is that they are seeking to make their artistic venture a more closed one. They hate poor people who will never have an opportunity to make their way to Italy’s Sella Valley and so they wish to scrub the internet of this public art installation so that people in places like India and China and anywhere else in the world will never see it.

Arte Sella seeks to control art. They seek to hide away art under a coward’s mantle of copyright infringement. They use the DMCA as a bully club to greedily blot out the eyes of those who are not the elites that might visit their installation in person and buy their overpriced books that are surely for sell in their overpriced bookstore.

By using greed instead of a desire to enrich and enlighten, Arte Sella pollutes art. They are no different than the menacing collector who uses their wealth and power to buy great works of art and lock them up in a private residence, only to be seen by them and their wealthy and powerful friends — oh, all herald the mighty “patrons” of the arts.

In doing this, Arte Sella does both the public as well as the artist a disservice. Arte Sella denies the artist additional exposure that can help promote an artist. That can further broadcast their vision and message that they seek to get across.

Public art ought to be free. It wants to be free. It belongs to the world and all the people everywhere on the globe that live here. Art ought to know no economic barrier. It was the great Rothko himself who once turned down a lucrative commission (when he very much needed the money) because after he agreed to do the public piece he learned that it was to be installed in a Four Seasons restaurant to be enjoyed by the wealthy rather than in a cafeteria for the general public as he originally understood.

Arte Sella is the enemy of the artist. They are the enemy of culture. They are the enemy of enlightenment. They represent a growing class of elites who are the anti-artist. Elites that show up for the opening of Richard Prince’s latest show based very much on image appropriation (read anti-copyright image theft) at New York’s Guggenheim Museum and then give millions of dollars to a museum that doesn’t allow photography inside because, well, photographers might appropriate images. This basket of hypocrites. The same hypocrites who put a no photography policy in place at Italy’s Uffizi museum. A museum where 99% of the collection is hundreds of years old and well beyond any measure of defensible copyright claim.

And Flickr is the enabler. Rather than blindly remove photos of public art installations, Flickr ought to take a stand to defend their customers and to defend their position as a world gallery of images. Even though Flickr may not wish to be the internet’s museum of public art, because of their success that is what they have become. And with that success ought to come responsibility that transcends mere economics. It’s easy to simply comply with every DMCA notice one is presented. It’s harder to examine each one individually and make determinations that some things are in fact worth fighting for. Collecting and preserving images of the world’s public art installations ought to be something that Flickr fights for. It’s important.

Oh and if you’d like to see more images of Arte Sella, there are still plenty of them on Flickr. As is typically the case, Davide was simply the one singled out this week in the same way that the RIAA goes after “music thieves,” while the music continues to remain free and alive on every P2P network in the world. Art, like music, wants to be free.

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  1. Ulrich says:

    Every flickr user agrees to the TOS. And the TOS allow flickr to rule over content, that is not owned by flickr – it is only hosted there. Everyone who uses flickr supports this practice which I think is wrong (both, the practice as well as supporting it).

  2. gregory says:

    copyright, intellectuasl property rights, they have to go. even for your work and mine.

  3. Thanks for the article

    But tom, you don’t need to bring up India and China all the time as examples of countries of “poor people”, I know plenty of people in Western Countries who have never travelled outside their country because they can’t afford to.

  4. gregory says:

    hitesh, you are right, india is way richer than america… figure out the amoutn of marriage gold, divide by a billion, it is a bout 6000 dollars for every man, woman , and child …

    the average american has 6000 bucks credit card debt, about 200 in the bank, and isn’t exactly sure where america is on the map

    jai hind

  5. Daniele says:

    I created the first website of ArteSella back in 1997 and it just shocking what I read here … I am writing right now to the organizers, the major of the city and I was living, and the local press about it. I refuse to think I have a home few km from them.

  6. ilya says:

    Complete mess… 🙁

    I think that organizations like Museum, Park, etc should create own groups on flickr and try to keep photos organized. Anyway people who see the Art and enjoy it, will visit it in real life. This can be a natural ADS.

    It is so simple…

  7. Brandon says:

    I completely agree with every point you make except the last one. Flickr is unfortunately legally constrained by the DMCA and the fact that they’re owned by a US company.I don’t think it’s heroic to comply with the law, but I can’t ding them for not wanting to be fined/legal sanctions imposed because of this.

    Of course, it would kick ass if they funded a lawyer to challenge this takedown. 🙂

  8. Claudio says:

    Arte Sella is mantained with public money.
    If their attitude is like this, they should be closed.