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Allan Lasser

back in the saddle

An Odd Bird

legalaffairs.org

Exhibit 1 was the Bird, which sat on a table, shimmering and soaring toward the ceiling while the lawyers debated whether it was an “original sculpture” or a metal “article or ware not specially provided for” under the 1922 Tariff Act. For the Bird to enter the country duty-free under the act, Steichen’s lawyers had to prove that Brancusi was a professional sculptor; that the Bird was a work of art; that it was original; and that it had no practical purpose.

Because art eludes definitions and law needs to impose them, the law on art often seems to be running after its subject.