Category: Business

Dean Valentine and Mark Grotjahn settle on resale royalties

February 8, 2012 |  2:30 pm

After more than a year of court filings and hearings and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, artist Mark Grotjahn and Dean Valentine, one of his earliest collectors, have settled a high-profile dispute over the payment of the resale royalty specified by California law.

Although the law providing a 5% royalty to artists whose “original” (one of a kind—not editioned) artwork is resold at a profit has been on the books since 1976, it has been widely neglected and unevenly enforced. Remarkably few lawsuits have been filed over the statute until Grotjahn pursued his case in 2010 and a different group of artists filed a class-action suit against Christie’s, Sotheby’s and EBay last fall.

Grotjahn’s case had been scheduled to go to trial on March 6. Instead, after court-ordered mediation,  Valentine agreed to pay Grotjahn $153,255 to settle the case. This figure includes the 5% resale royalty (plus interest) on one painting and one drawing that the collector had bought and resold, amounting to $68,255, plus $85,000 toward Grotjahn’s legal fees.

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Pomona close to requiring 1% public art fee from developers

November 9, 2011 |  8:45 am

Pomona's Landmark 1930s Fox Theater
Pomona is close to enacting a new Art in Public Places law that would require private developers to ante up 1% of a project’s cost to commission artwork for each building site.

The city council voted 5-2 in favor of the new law on Monday, with Mayor Elliott Rothman and Councilwoman Paula Lantz dissenting, spokesman Mark Gluba said. If approved on a second reading that hasn’t been scheduled yet, the law is expected to go into effect in mid-January.

The ordinance text says the aim is to “enrich and enliven the community … enhance the economic vitality of the city [and] develop community pride and identity.”

The council also approved an ordinance aimed at encouraging art murals in the city, subject to a government permit.

In drafting the 1% law, Pomona officials looked at what they deemed to be successful public art programs in L.A., Brea, Culver City, Long Beach, Pasadena, Palm Springs, Palm Desert and San Mateo. As a hypothetical, they applied the arts ordinance to a 202-unit residential building for graduate students that developer Hanover Pacific has planned near the campus of Western University of Health Sciences. Under current rules, the $36.5-million project would be subject to about $1.66 million in city development and permitting fees. With the public art add-on, the tab would come to $2.03 million — a 22% increase that’s comparable to the amounts developers pay to offset projects’ impacts on public schools and sanitation.

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Dispatch from Canada: Toronto Symphony Orchestra strikes gold with the kids

June 30, 2011 | 12:45 pm

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra with TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian, credit Cylla von Tiedemann

The 2010-11 season has been a tough one for classical music across the continent. In most cities, a sticking of heads in the sand in regard to how technology has changed our relationship with live performance and an insistence that the music itself was enough to fill the hall has left orchestral music standing in the corner wondering why people aren’t noticing how awesome it is anymore.

Add in shifting cultural priorities, major hits to endowments, bitter labor disputes and poor management, and many orchestras are naturally feeling more and more anxious about their future.

As dismal as the outlook may seem, some orchestras are doing it right. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra faced near bankruptcy in 1995 and 2001, a major labor dispute in 1999, half-full halls, crippling debt, and a CEO and conductor who jumped ship, yet it has come out the other side in great shape. This month, the orchestra reported that 35% of its audience is younger than 35 years old.

In 2001 the choice was make massive changes or fold. Choosing the former, and, frankly, with nothing left to lose, the TSO actively reached out to new audiences by fitting programming into their schedule instead of demanding the reverse. A new after-work concert series catered to commuters and a shorter Saturday night series was followed each time by a party in the lobby where musicians and the audience could mingle, drink and listen to local bands. The TSO’s biggest success, however, has been the “tsoundcheck” program (the “t” is silent), which offers $14 tickets to those from 18 to 35.

Offering cheap tickets to students is nothing new, but extending the privilege to young professionals and designing social events with them in mind is, even nine years later, still not the norm. Last year, 23,000 tickets were sold through tsoundcheck — four times more than the first year the program was offered.

The musicians have noticed.

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Broadway sees jumps in attendance and box-office haul for 2010-11 season

May 31, 2011 |  2:51 pm


The 2010-11 Broadway season in New York saw a jump in attendance and box-office dollars over the previous season, according to a new report from the Broadway League. The report, released Tuesday, states that attendance rose 5.4% from the 2009–10 season and grosses jumped 5.9% over the same period.

For 2010-11, Broadway shows brought in a total of $1,080,562,880 and attendance of 12,534,595. The 2010-11 season began May 24, 2010 and ended May 29, 2011.

The Broadway League noted that the most recent season comprised 53 weeks, whereas the previous season had 52 weeks.  The report said that attendance through week 52 was up 3.1% over last year's 52-week season. The 53rd week of the season incorporated most of Memorial Day weekend, which traditionally brings a bump in business to most shows.

The average paid admission for a show during the period was $86.21, according to the Broadway League.

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Bill and Melinda Gates portrait unveiled at National Portrait Gallery

May 17, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Gates Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, have been officially immortalized in a new painting at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The artwork, which was unveiled Tuesday morning, was painted by Jon Friedman and is on display in the museum's "Recent Acquisitions" exhibition.

The painting was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and is part of the museum's permanent collection.

The portrait emphasizes the Gateses' humanitarian efforts, which are conducted through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The screen behind them in the painting reads "All Lives Have Equal Value.") The artwork makes no direct visual reference to Microsoft, the software company that Gates founded with Paul Allen in 1975.

The couple issued a joint statement Tuesday: "It is an honor to have our portrait joining those of so many outstanding Americans in the National Portrait Gallery. Our thanks go to Jon Friedman for creating the portrait in so thoughtful a manner, and for calling out the work of our foundation so evocatively."

Gates isn't the only businessman to earn a place in the National Portrait Gallery. Other prominent businessmen who are featured in the museum's collections include Ted Turner, Malcolm Forbes Jr., Rupert Murdoch and Hugh Hefner.

A spokeswoman for the National Portrait Gallery said that the museum features portraits of "individuals of all backgrounds and careers -- it's a matter of how significant you are in American history."


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Photos, from top: The portrait of Bill and Melinda Gates by Jon Friedman at the National Portrait Gallery; Friedman with his portrait. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

Americans for the Arts compiles National Arts Index, a cultural S&P 500

January 24, 2011 |  9:11 am

TaperGaryFriedmanLAT Americans for the Arts, a leading advocacy group, has compiled reams of statistics about the nonprofit arts and commercial entertainment that have been squirreled away in all sorts of governmental and private research cubbyholes, and it has boiled them down to a single number, the National Arts Index, which aims to reflect the state of health of American arts and entertainment. 

The number is 97.7. It isn't good. To find out why, click here for the full story.

Among many other things, the 139-page report, available on Americans for the Arts' website, looks at the state of the nation's cultural workforce.

It indicates that since 1999, the average inflation-adjusted wages in 45 artistic occupations ranged from a low of $41,320 (2002) to a high of $49,450 (2003), and stood at $48,473 in 2009.

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Ansel Adams didn't take pictures in garage-sale find, says top photographic institute housing his archive

August 31, 2010 |  8:55 pm

A leading photographic institute has weighed in, belatedly, against Rick Norsigian's claim that the 65 old-fashioned glass-plate negatives he bought 10 years ago at a Fresno garage sale represents a "lost" trove of Ansel Adams images from the 1920s.

RickNorsigianLawrenceKHo The Center for Creative Photography, which Adams himself helped establish in 1975 at the University of Arizona in Tucson, houses all 44,000 of his negatives and is a leading resource for researchers into his and other photographers' work.

The center had refused to comment since July 27, when Norsigian unveiled what he said was evidence establishing that the pictures were Adams', with an appraised worth of more than $200 million.

"We are aware of the claims made by Rick Norsigian regarding photographic negatives in his possession. We have no reason to believe that these negatives are, in fact, the work of Ansel Adams," said a statement issued Tuesday by the center's director, Katharine Martinez.

The statement added that the center "supports the efforts of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust to protect its rights in this matter." The trust, which decides who has the right to reproduce Adams' work, last week sued Norsigian and a marketing consultant working with him, alleging that their attempts to advertise and sell his images as Adams' work violated the trust's trademark rights.

For the full story, click here.

-- Mike Boehm


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Photo: Rick Norsigian. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times

Eli Broad's art museum could get public funding; competing Shen Yun group says it can't get a fair hearing

July 30, 2010 | 12:43 pm

BroadMuseumSiteLawrenceKHo Here are a couple of interesting new wrinkles in the saga of Eli Broad's bid to plant his art collection in a museum on Bunker Hill, within football-throwing distance of both Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

First, a check of the fine print to the deal that L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency OKd two weeks ago -- the first of four governmental approvals needed for the museum to go forward -- shows that the estimated $100-million structure may not be built entirely with Broad's own money, after all.

The deal that CRA/LA commissioners approved on a 4-0 vote calls for Broad's museum to get a rebate of public funds that could exceed $10 million -- although exactly how much it would get, and when, depends on the hard-to-predict timetable and construction costs for the rest of the Grand Avenue project. That estimated $3-billion commercial, residential and cultural development plan has been stalled by the bad economy.

Under longstanding redevelopment agency policy, developers pay 1% of their projects' design and construction costs into a fund to create artworks or cultural facilities that benefit the neighborhood. Broad's deal calls for him to get 40% of the arts levy for three other parcels in the Grand Avenue project, 20% of the total for a fourth, and 40% from another, nearby CRA/LA property that was originally supposed to be developed in the 1980s California Plaza project, but remains unused.

Meanwhile, the Shen Yun Performing Arts group, which covets the same 2nd Street and Grand Avenue site where the Broad museum is supposed to go, hasn't given up trying for an eleventh-hour reconsideration of how that land should be used.

Shen Yun held a news conference Thursday a block west of the projected museum site, saying L.A. officialdom has stonewalled its effort to get a fair hearing. Shen Yun, which has close ties to the Falun Gong religious movement that is banned in China, wants to build a 3,000-seat theater for its dance performances -- a blend of traditional Chinese styles and technological spectacle -- and a 454-foot-high residential tower as a dorm for students who would learn the Shen Yun method, then join the group's global touring troupes.

After the news conference, Shen Yun spokesmen told The Times they suspect the Chinese government is trying to pressure L.A. officials and the business community to block the plan -- a notion that L.A. councilwoman Jan Perry and Related Cos., the Grand Avenue project's developer, sharply dismissed.

For the full story on the Broad museum rebates, click here; for more on Shen Yun, click here.

-- Mike Boehm

Photos: The site where Eli Broad wants to build a museum to house his art collection is now a parking lot. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times.

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Did Ansel Adams take these photos? Are they worth $200 million? Depends who you ask

July 27, 2010 |  8:38 pm

RickNorsigian Rick Norsigian, the antiques buff who bought a couple of boxes of old-fashioned glass-plate photographic negatives at a garage sale 10 years ago in Fresno, then set out to prove they were taken by Ansel Adams early in his career, is back in the news.

Norsigian and his advisors laid out what they say is conclusive proof Tuesday in a packed news conference at a Beverly Hills gallery whose owner, David W. Streets, is on a team that has appraised the potential value of the 65 negatives at more than $200 million.

As Norsigian, who hasn't given up his day job painting school buildings and classroom walls for the Fresno school district, begins selling prints of 17 of the images on his website -- at $7,500 a pop for darkroom prints, $1,500 for digital reproductions and $45 for posters -- the Ansel Adams establishment is far from sold.

Norsigian_Collection045-7_22 Counting themselves skeptical at the very least are Matthew Adams, the photographer's grandson, and William Turnage, Ansel Adams' business manager for 12 years before his death in 1984, and now the chief trustee whose OK publishers, poster-makers and the like need if they want to use Adams' images.

They doubt that Adams took the pictures of Yosemite National Park, the San Francisco waterfront, Carmel mission and Point Lobos that were in Norsigian's find. What's more, they and some leading dealers in Adams prints say, it almost doesn't matter if Adams did take the pictures -- his archive at the University of Arizona's Center for Creative Photography already houses 44,000 others, so what's the big deal about another 65?

Turnage says Adams printed only about 1,500 photographs in all, printing only the ones he himself thought worthy. Dealers say it's the original, artist-made prints, not the negatives, that count when you're talking about value.

Buy one of the Norsigian prints (like the one pictured here of falls in Yosemite), his critics say, and you'll be getting either something Adams had nothing to do with or, at best, a second-hand interpretation by somebody else -- good only for its decorative value and not truly an original work of art. For the full story, click here

-- Mike Boehm

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Photos: Rick Norsigian, pictured in 2006 holding a glass-plate photographic negative of Yosemite Falls that experts he hired now say is one of 65 authentic Ansel Adams images he bought at a garage sale; another Yosemite image from Norsigian's find. Credits: Robert Durrell/Los Angeles Times (top); Rick Norsigian Collection (bottom).

Eli Broad museum site gets preliminary city OK, but a rival arts use suddenly emerges

July 15, 2010 |  1:34 pm

EliBroad09 A potential roadblock to Eli Broad's plans for a downtown museum housing his contemporary art collection sprang up Thursday while he was en route to securing a unanimous OK from commissioners of the city Community Redevelopment Agency to plant a $100-million facility on publicly owned land.

Now vying for officials' consideration is a rival plan to build a 3,000-seat theater and training center for a tradition-steeped Chinese performing arts company on the same parcel at Grand Avenue and 2nd Street. Behind the proposal is Shen Yun Performing Arts, which has brought shows to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Orange County Performing Arts Center and other major venues and says it will stage more than 400 performances this year in 30 countries.

Shen Yun's spokesman, Shizhong Chen, briefly presented its plan to the CRA/LA board during a 20-minute hearing at the Central Library that preceded the board's vote in favor of the museum, which may become known as the Broad Collection, a la New York City's Frick Collection. Chen complained that Shen Yun had tried since February to present its proposal to the redevelopment agency but was ignored.

Now, he said in an interview after the vote, the group will try to make its case to the remaining government bodies that have to sign off before Broad can start building the museum -- the Los Angeles City Council, the county Board of Supervisors and a Joint Powers Authority of city, county and state officials that's in charge of the $3-billion Grand Avenue project.

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