Imagining the Law


Imagining the Law



Law’s relations to art--to its creation, its production, and dissemination, its restriction as well as to commercial and contractual agreements about art works—are as multiform and complex as the category of art itself. Acknowledging that there is no discrete body of law that governs art, the author defines art law as “the survey of legal issues raised by art, artist, and the art world” and surveys four central themes: the law as art, the law of art, the law of creativity, and the collision of art and law. Any legal dispute about art usually evokes a plea for special legal rules or approaches, as in the case of Nussenzweig v. diCorcia, 878 N.E.2d 589 (2006). The author points the way toward a study of law in its relationship to creative, cultural practices, particularly to the notion of aesthetic judgment in the domains of art and law. Law typically works to promote and protect, rather than impede, artistic creation on the logic that art is a social good. Questions about art’s role in the creation of culture and the rights of the artist frequently enter the legal domain for their answers. In cases of illegal trade of art treasures, for example, the courts have had to decide whether art constitutes a specific cultural heritage, a broader human achievement, or simply a commodity. Controversies in intellectual property, though they focus on the individual artist, are similarly bound up with creative and economic interests that reveal fundamental inconsistencies between law’s stated mission to encourage the production of art as a common good and law’s so-called creativity threshold, which works to restrict innovation. The author sees in these inconsistencies a collision between art (radically transformative) and law (resistant to change) based on their fundamentally differently cultural functions, and argues that judges apply private ideas about aesthetics instead of openly acknowledging that their judgments are not neutral and nonsubjective.

Publication Date



Art, Art law, intellectual property, Nussenzweig v. diCorcia, Aesthetics


Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law | Intellectual Property Law | Law

Imagining the Law