UK: Respect For The Artist

Last Updated: 23 March 2017
Article by Eleni Polycarpou

From November to January the Art Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (CAFA) hosted a successful exhibition of 87 of Anselm Kiefer's paintings, sculptures, installations and photographic works. Entitled 'Kiefer in China', it was to be the Beijing stop of the Anselm Kiefer Coagulation exhibition, and it was advertised as the first large-scale retrospective of Kiefer's work in China.

Kiefer is one of the most important representatives of German neo-expressionism and his work has had an important influence on Chinese contemporary art, so the exhibition was eagerly awaited and keenly attended.

 However, a few days before it opened, it was surrounded by controversy when Kiefer announced that the exhibition had been planned without his involvement or permission and that he had no intention to travel to China for it.

 Furthermore, he took strong objection to the part of the statement on the exhibition website made by CAFA President Fan Di'an, which read: "For many years, German friends and I have been exploring ways to bring a large-scale exhibition of Kiefer's work to China, and we had particularly hoped that, with his personal participation, we could present the key elements in his thinking."

 The artist said that this statement misrepresented the position by suggesting that he had endorsed the project when he had not been consulted at all.

 He called for the cancellation of the exhibition, but his request was refused by the organisers who said that legally they had broken no rules. Furthermore, the statement was not removed and can still be found, unchanged, on the CAFA website. The show's Chief Curator, Beate Reifenscheid, has recently defended her freedom to assemble the show as she sees fit, and supporters have accused Kiefer of simply trying to protect his own commercial prospects in China.

 Rights of the artist

 What rights (if any) do living artists have when their work is exhibited without their permission or approval? How much control does an artist have over their works after they are sold?

 The German organisers clearly had a contract with the Chinese museums, by which the current owners of the works gave permission for the exhibition on terms agreed between those parties. But in many jurisdictions around the world, artists also have rights that can in certain circumstances override the terms of such a contract. Those rights are called 'moral rights' and come from the French 'le droit moral'.

 There are two types of moral rights, set out in article 6bis of the Berne Convention: (a) the right of attribution, which is the right to be identified as the author of a copyright work; and (b) the right of integrity, which is the artist's right to object to derogatory treatment of a copyright work, where it would be prejudicial to their honour or reputation.

 The rights vary from country to country. At one end of the spectrum, there is France, where they are essentially inalienable and last forever, because they are considered to protect the emotional involvement between artists and their creation (something that cannot be valued in an economic sense).

 At the other end of the spectrum there is the UK, where they are considered to be predominantly economic rights and can be found in copyright legislation (CDPA ss80 and 205J), designed to control the copying of works. In the UK the artist can only complain where the derogatory treatment of their work "amounts to distortion or mutilation of the work or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author".

 It was used in a 1982 case called Snow v Eaton, in which a sculptor was allowed to invoke the right to integrity to stop a shopping centre from hanging Christmas decorations from his sculptures.

 Most other EU countries, including Germany, are close to the French position. China is also a member of the Berne Convention and has passed copyright legislation protecting artists' moral rights as above.

 Kiefer's case

 Anselm Kiefer may have felt that those works should not be presented as a representation of his works as a whole. We don't have any information as to the nature of his complaint, but in the UK he would have had to show that the exhibition was prejudicial to his reputation and that is generally a high bar.

 Even in other Berne Convention countries, such as China or Germany, moral rights in legislation do not permit the artist to control the form or manner of an exhibition, if no deforming changes are made to the works or if the exhibition does not reflect on the artist's professional standing.

 The organisers felt they could not cancel the exhibition because otherwise proceedings could have been brought under the relevant contracts.

 In China, the art world has experienced a real transformation from the times when, for example in the 1960s, artists were treated badly and individualism was not permitted. This was done to such a degree that paintings were marked as collectively created. Although China now recognises artists' moral rights, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Chinese organisers went ahead regardless, given that not long ago such an exhibition would not have been possible in China at all.

 Protective planning

 The best way for artists to protect against situations such as this is to work closely with museums and galleries to ensure that there is accurate representation of the artists' work. In the 1970s there was an 'artist contract' commonly referred to as the 'Siegelaub Agreement', but it didn't catch on because it had too many restrictions on both artist and collector.

 But the art world still operates on art market conventions rather than legal positions. Museums and galleries are best advised to consult with living artists when putting on exhibitions of their works, not so much because they need to avoid falling foul of moral rights legislation, but because they should show respect for the artist and their work in order to gain credibility with the public and with the artists themselves.

This article was originally published by Arts Professional.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.