From The Salt Lake Tribune’s Glen Warchol comes news of conflict between local entrepreneurs Epic Brewing and the DIA Art Foundation of New York. At issue is the brewery’s decision to name a beer after the Spiral Jetty and use a photo of the little-known artifact on the bottle.
It’s really sad when a small business and an organization that promotes obscure and beleaguered artists and their works take each other to court. On the one hand, there is no question but that artworks and their makers are subject to wide abuse of this sort. Epic was wrong to help themselves to Robert Smithson’s work without compensation to, or at least checking with, its present owners. But on the other hand, it’s a bit disingenuous of DIA to represent themselves to Mr. Warchol, as they apparently did, as “a foundation that preserves the legacy of artist Robert Smithson.” DIA has owned the Jetty for most of its existence, including the thirty years that it languished under a few inches of salt water, visible from the air but not from the shore, and it is to global warming, not DIA, that we owe its recovery. More to the point, almost no one knows about Smithson or his work. Is the bruising to DIA’s sense of corporate proprietorship really more important here than the likely promotion of recognition of an artist and his work beyond the tiny, minority community of Earth Art fans?
How about this? Has DIA ever heard of Appropriation? The hottest ticket among New York’s mainstream artists a few years ago was the outright theft of artistic form by other artists. Maybe Epic should declare their bottle a signed work of Appropriation Art. Or can DIA have its cake and wash it down with Epic’s beer?
[map address=”Spiral Jetty, Box Elder, Utah” z=”15″ maptype=”TERRAIN” marker=”yes”]
Geoff Wichert has degrees in critical writing and creative nonfiction. He writes about art to settle the arguments going on in his head.