Thursday, July 09, 2009

No Contest Part III - The Art Institute of Chicago Doesn't Get It!

In mid-May, my ASMP Chicago/Midwest Chapter colleague Marcus Maddox and I took issue with the Art Institute of Chicago regarding the rules to their photography contest celebrating the opening of a new wing. The contest rules, like many others lately, contain insufferable language which amounts to an egregious rights-grab. We see this all the time, it's not unusual to find the corporate world (and their legal departments) seeking to get over on artists. What makes this exceptional is that it's an art museum seeking to get over on artists!!

The rules state: By entering the Contest, entrant grants Sponsors the non-exclusive, royalty-free, and irrevocable right to use, reproduce, copy, publish, display, distribute, perform, translate, adapt, modify, and otherwise exploit the photo and to incorporate the photo in other works in any and all markets and media now or hereafter known worldwide in perpetuity. Again, we expect to encounter this elsewhere, but not from an arts organization. Needless to say (I hope so, anyway), we let the Art Institute know how deeply saddened we were to see this behavior coming from them.

Two days ago we received a reply from Eric Hogan, the Art Institute's Director of Public Affairs, which read: Thank you for your comment regarding the Art Institute's photography
contest related to the opening of the Modern Wing. The contest is not directed at professional photographers, who should be and generally are well compensated for their work. The contest was meant to engage the hundreds of thousands of visitors who like to take pictures -- with their iPhones and non-professional-quality digital cameras--in the Modern Wing as a new feature of the Chicago landscape. We're sorry for the misunderstanding but certainly did not mean to imply that we were looking for "free" professional work. More than a dozen professional photographers have shot the building -- for magazine spreads, ad campaigns, and publications -- and all were fully compensated by the museum.

These are supposed to be bright, intelligent people. Do they really think an art museum can stage a widely publicized photography contest and that there would be no serious artists (professionals) entering images? Especially if the rules don't specifically exclude professionals and images made with professional instruments?? C'mon, let's get real, and please don't insult my intelligence with a lame response.

My point was, and remains, simply: An organization that's supposed to be dedicated to advancing the visual arts ought not be taking advantage of visual artists; and whether an artist's status is amateur or professional is wholly beside the point. The Art Institute of Chicago should not sponsor a contest in which the rules undermine the value of art and the artists who produce it!


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