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Art Museum and Swiss Artist Take Their Disagreements to Court

By Andi Bryant     Sep 26, 2007 in Entertainment
Swiss artist Christoph Buchel, known for his mammoth and politically motivated exhibits, exceeded the project's budget and walked away from his unfinished work. A federal judge ruled that the museum can display the exhibit.
In late autumn of 2006, Swiss artist Christoph Buchel arrived at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), an art museum tucked away in far western Massachusetts, to build a gigantic art exhibit.
With Mass MoCA setting a budget of $160,000 for the artist's project, Buchel managed to spend upwards of $300,000, nearly doubling the budgeted amount. A disagreement between the museum and the artist ensued, and Buchel finally packed up and left the city leaving his project behind. The artist vowed not to return until a list of (unspecified) demands were met. Mass MoCA covered the partial exhibit with tarps, and both parties ended up in court.
The mammoth project, entitled "Training Ground for Democracy" was scheduled to be unveiled in December of 2006. The opening date was suspended indefinitely. The piece was to be Buchel's first major American museum exhibit.
On September 21 of this year, a federal judge ruled that Mass MoCA could display Buchel's partially constructed artwork, and a disclaimer stating the work's unfinished status was required to be displayed as well. The judge ruled that since the museum had spent over $300,000 in materials and assisted with setting up the piece, they could remove the tarps and publicly display the exhibit.
Buchel's attorneys claimed that showing the piece would be violating to the artist by potentially bringing forth a false impression of his work. The judge ruled that displaying the work wouldn't harm the artist's reputation.
After witnessing the piece first hand, the ruling judge said in his opening statement, "I was extremely moved by this piece of art. It is very powerful. It is not particularly pleasant to walk through. It is the kind of art that wakes you up in the middle of the night."
Amid all of the efforts to gain some control over the exhibit, and after the judge's ruling, the museum decided yesterday against showing the piece to the public. They have, instead, decided to embark on a five week dismantling endeavor.
The exhibit's immense size is constructed of life size props, such as an oil tanker, a damaged police car and a two story house, and contains over two miles of cinder block.
It will cost the museum an additional $40,000 to dismantle and dispose of the exhibit, bringing the total cost of the unveiled project to nearly $400,000.
After the judge's ruling on September 21, Buchel's attorney's filed an appeal. It is unclear that appeal will be dropped.
More about Mass moca, Buchel, Art exhibit
 
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