Defacing of artwork causes controversy

October 28, 2018 - 09:00

A painting by a well-known Vietnamese artist was sold for VNĐ200 million (roughly US$8,600) at a recent auction to raise money for sick artists.

Illustrated by Trịnh Lập
Viet Nam News

Mai Phương Linh

A painting by a well-known Vietnamese artist was sold for VNĐ200 million (roughly US$8,600) at a recent auction to raise money for sick artists.

The charity night in HCM City made more than VNĐ830 million, but this success was marred when the painting buyer asked some celebrity singers to sign the new purchase.

The businessman’s request and the singers’ compliance have raised uproar among the artistic community.

Some have condemned it as being rude and culturally uneducated. Others said it was understandable as the owner had paid a lot of money for the painting and was entitled to do anything with it as he will.

For me, the singers who signed their names on the surface of the painting showed a lack of knowledge about art and the Law on Intellectual Property.

I wonder if this behaviour has permeated into the celebrity circle, particularly the stars who should have been more cautious about their actions.

In this case, those who signed the painting broke some serious cultural ethics too.

How could they agree to sign a painting that their fellow artist had put his heart and soul into?

After being attacked on social media, one of the singers who signed the painting said the owner had asked him to do it and said that he was entitled to do so.

His reaction showed he knows little about art and the law.

The president of the Việt Nam Fine Arts Association, Trần Khánh Chương, said that any signature on the surface of a painting, except that of the painter’s, would destroy the work.

"No matter how famous a singer is, he should not sign an artwork because it damages the piece and disrespects the painter. Only the painter has the right to sign his own work,” said Chương.

Signing a painting could disfigure or add artistic value. The painter’s own signature not only confirms who he is but also became an integral part of the work, according to Chương.

“The fact that some random person signs their name has no artistic value," he added.

Since the public reaction, the singer has apologized for the signing. He repeated that he had acted on the request of the owner.

 “A painting should only be for honouring art, not the influence of any individuals, no matter how famous they are,” said Chương.

This is really a lesson for both artists and collectors, and in this case the latter is also culpable.

“Ownership only takes its role in terms of property not in terms of artistic content. A signature not related to the content may lead to confusion of the creator," Chương added.

On the legal side, Hồ Trọng Minh, an artist from Hà Nội, said on Facebook that the singers’ behaviour towards art and culture had violated the Law on Intellectual Property (IPL).

According to the IPL, the artist had the right "to protect the integrity of the work, and to prevent others from modifying, altering or mutilating the work in a way that harmed the artist’s reputation".

The IPL also says any action of modifying, mutilating or damaging artworks in any forms which were detrimental to the honour and reputation of the author should be put under legal punishment.

Artists and the public have the right to condemn and demand the protection of artworks as well as copyright in the above case.

For a happy ending to the case, artists should let the audience know how they want society to treat their works. — VNS