New York – The Arts & Records committee of the U.S. based Inland Marine Underwriters Association (IMUA) issued a report last year entitled “Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) of 1990.” The report draws attention to some of the rights granted to artists under VARA, one of which is the right of integrity of the work, which includes his or her right to disavow the piece. VARA states that the artist retains this right throughout his or her life, even if the original work has been sold and is no longer in the artist’s possession.
One aspect of the Act that is causing some concern for underwriters, appraisers and restorers is the fact that VARA protects the artist’s right to prevent an artwork purchaser from altering or destroying the artwork without the artist’s permission and assures the artist’s right to be credited as the author of the work. Restoration is altering, albeit for the right reasons. The question then has to be asked: Should the living artist be consulted in the process of restoration? And further, will the original artistic intention of the piece be compromised by a contemplated restoration? Finally, will artists, if they discover that a work has been altered, no longer claim it as their own? The legal and market ramifications of such a situation could be extensive.
The authors of the report state that with the enactment of VARA not only is there a danger that the living artist may disown or discredit a restored work, but that the artist may bring legal action under VARA against those responsible for the unauthorized restoration. The stakes are certainly higher since VARA’s enactment.