Students Photograph Calder Sculpture In Protest

Large, black tree-like sculptureLast weekend UVA installed an enormous sculpture by Alexander Calder in front Peabody Hall, across from the West Range. The 12′ black, metal work, entitled “Tripes,” is a long-term loan from the Calder Foundation. In front of the sculpture, the university posted a sign reading, in part: “No photography allowed without written permission from the Calder Foundation.” UVA’s Committee on Public Art insisted that copyright law prohibited any pictures being taken of the sculpture. (As you can guess, no such law exists.)

If there’s one thing that lots of people want to do, it’s what they’ve been told arbitrarily that they must not do. Yesterday dozens of students showed up for a “photo-in” protest, Emily Poe writes for The Cavalier Daily. Organized on Facebook, the goal was to have lots of people simply show up and take verboten photographs at the appointed hour. I counted about fifty people snapping pictures (the sculpture is across the street from my office), and many of their photos have been posted to Facebook. By the end of the day yesterday, UVA announced that they were rescinding the ban, saying that the Calder Foundation had obligated them to make the false statement on the sign, but that they’d received permission to change it to say that only commercial photography is prohibited. While still not quite accurate, it’s not liable to result in a student protest anytime soon.

8 Responses to “Students Photograph Calder Sculpture In Protest”

  • Perhaps the Art people should talk to the Law School people.

  • I saw all the students taking pictures yesterday and assumed they were a busload of tourists. Had I known, I would have come outside to join in.

    Anyone know for how long it will stay? I love it already…it reminds me of the split button at Penn or the Shuttlecocks in Kansas City.

  • This is the second protest by students in recent months that I’ve just thoroughly enjoyed. (The other was the response to the sign ban at UVA football games.)

  • I’m so excited about the Calder. While the University is beautiful and I appreciate the Jeffersonian splendor as much as the next person, it’s nice to have something interesting and different on Grounds.

  • Calder rocks. I’m curious about who is responsible for the exact wording on the sign. I’m certain the sign was made here, in our sign shop; did the Calder people dictate the exact phrasing or did they just request the restriction and UVa phrased it inaccurately?

  • I fully admit that I’m not well versed in the law regarding the copyright claim, but photographs of the Eiffel Tower at night are copyrighted (in some countries), so it might be a legitimate claim that commercial use is prohibited.

    The funny part about all of it is that nobody would have cared (or tried to use a photo of the piece commercially) if they hadn’t posted the sign in the first place.

    There’s certainly at least one law in effect here: The Law of Unintended Consequences.

  • On my honor, I will not lie, cheat or steal.

  • Seems to me that taking a picture of a piece of art could itself be an artistic expression – hence protected by 1st amendment. Once again UVA fails in its obligation to promote freedom of thought & expression and instead protects its corporate & institutional interests. If the Foundation wanted that kind of restriction why didn’t the admin say “no thanks, that’s not in the tradition of MR J’s university”?

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