ART CONSERVATION AND THE LEGAL OBLIGATION TO PRESERVE ARTISTIC INTENT
ANN M. GARFINKLE, JANET FRIES, DANIEL LOPEZ, & LAURA POSSESSKY
In December 1990, after more than 10 years of debate, Congress passed the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), representing one of the most significant changes in American copyright law in its 200-year history. This law granted new rights for American artists called “moral rights”: the “right of attribution,” which grants artists the right to be identified with their works, and the “right of integrity,” which grants artists the right to protect their works from modification and destruction. With the introduction of these new rights, the passage of this law has imposed a legal obligation on art conservators, collectors, and others to preserve the artistic intent of the artist. While preserving artistic intent is not new to conservators, the consequences of failing to preserve artistic intent are now more costly. Therefore, it is vital that conservators understand VARA and how it affects their profession.