Money, power, and pictures of art.

Author:Metro, Judy
Position:Money, Power, and the History of Art

The price of publishing a scholarly art work, especially one that deals with 20th century art, entails a lot of side-expenses which the authors usually shoulder themselves. As their texts are very much dependent on accompanying illustrations, they are forced to pay the numerous materials and reproduction fees imposed by representatives of artists. Such fees are absurdly disproportionate to the... (see full summary)


There are many ways in which money impacts on publishing decisions in the world of art, particularly as they are made in university presses. These range from the ubiquitous bottomline considerations of any self-sustaining enterprise to the ability of individual art historians to support a necessary but increasingly expensive habit, that of documenting their books and articles with images outside the public domain. Power, whether in the guise of irresistible persuasion or forceful control, holds much less sway in university press publishing - unless, of course, you count the power wielded by grantdispensing agencies, in which case the "sway" is pronounced enough to either plant or uproot a publishing project. The coincidence of rising out-of-pocket expenses for authors of scholarly books, especially those who work on twentiethcentury art, and diminished or changing funding opportunities available to publishers of art books is the worrisome condition I will address here.

As any art historian who has published even an article knows, the concept of fair use barely exists with regard to visual imagery. While colleagues in other branches of the humanities lean on fair use to excerpt up to five hundred words from a single text to support, document, or demonstrate their ideas in print, art historians turning to images for the same purpose find that the meter has started ticking before they've even warmed up. (If only a picture were worth five hundred words instead of one thousand, art historians might have had a break.) Having paid a nominal fee simply to look at a photograph or slide or digital reproduction, or perhaps having made an expensive trek to see the work of art in person, scholars who decide to reproduce it in print customarily have to agree to meet the following basic financial obligations with the owner of the work, whether the owner is a museum, private collector, foundation, or other source of imagery:

* a materials fee for the purchase or rental of a black-andwhite photograph or color transparency;

* an additional materials fee if the rental period must be extended beyond the three or font months offered by the owners (this is often the case, because publishers require the materials to be on hand for at least five or six months);

* a reproduction fee for the right to reproduce the image from the particular photograph or transparency offered by the owner; these fees increase exponentially for publication in English-speaking countries outside North America and for each additional language if the book is to be translated;

* one or two complimentary copies of the publication in which the...

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