RIDA 181 | 07-1999
THE CONCEPT O F ORIGINALITY AND
University of Paris XI - Sceaux
Brancusi's Bird in Space (1) was seized in 1927 by the U.S. Customs who demanded that its owner pay the tax on raw materials (metal and stone) and refused to grant it the exemption applicable to original works of art. Thus Bird in Space, which is recognized as being a major work today, was denied the status of a work of art. This led to a historic lawsuit against the United States which Brancusi won in 1928. In granting an abstract sculpture the status of a work of art, the court took account of the development of art and in particular the influence of the school of modern art.
This exceptional lawsuit (2) illustrates the difficulty in defining a work of art (3): what are the assessment criteria and who is the judge (4)? The answers are of fundamental importance
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