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UPDATE: Why “Unerasing” a Sol LeWitt is Impossible

The butter knife action across the wall where the execution of a LeWitt once was. Image via Swamplot.

[Since publishing the news post “Disappeared Sol LeWitt Painting Slowly Reappears in Houston Home” two days ago, I have been schooled by the Menil Collection and others very knowledgeable about LeWitt’s work. Glasstire thinks that it is critical to right the misinformation.]

First of all, Sol Lewitt’s Wall Drawing #679 still exists in the collection of the Menil. He was a conceptual artist and, for LeWitt, the work of art lives in the certificate of authenticity and diagram. The certificate for Wall Drawing #679 is owned by the Menil, and the Menil retains the right to recreate it. The ink drawing behind the wall in the new homeowners of the house designed by architect Bill Stern, who commissioned the LeWitt, is not a work by Sol LeWitt. It is simply the remnants of what was once the execution of the conceptual work.

The Menil Collection states, “LeWitt likened his wall drawings to a musical score. The artistic creation is in the design. The execution depends on talented craftspeople (or in the case of the musical score, the musicians) who adapt the design. The work is ephemeral.”

So, despite the homeowners’ many chronicles of the “unerasing” on a variety of social media platforms, they are really just messing up a perfectly good wall.

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3 Responses

  1. LSH

    Depends on your definition of “perfectly good wall” I suppose.

    What if you were a modern-art lover who bought a house with a “perfectly good” white wall. Then one day you saw that a 30″ tall, spectacularly colorful Sol LeWitt wall drawing that had previously been executed on that wall was peeking at you from behind crumbly sheetrock, because whoever did the plastering and painting on the perfectly good wall didn’t actually do it such a perfectly good job. You would just leave it alone? Yeah…right.

  2. Bill Davenport

    Nevertheless, that thing on that wall, whatever it is, bears an interesting relation to Sol Lewitt’s Wall Drawing #697. Physical reality stubbornly persists irrelevant to concepts. “Eppur si muove”!

  3. DSK

    The argument put forth by Paula Newton is Sophist in nature. If it “was” a LeWitt drawing, it still “is” a LeWitt drawing. Likewise, so is the argument put forth by the Menil that it is ephemeral in nature as it is not destroyed, merely covered up. Further, we still refer to many restored frescoes as being “done” by the original artist, even though they have been over painted and stripped down several times. The Menil is merely trying to limit their legal liability for selling the artwork by denying the authenticity of piece which should have been removed or destroyed to satisfy the instructions of Stern’s will. Further, the idea that the certificate of authenticity and diagram are equivalent in any way to an actual execution of said diagram is ridiculous and specious. They better not hope I sit on the jury when the dentist decides to sell the house and lists the drawing as a selling point and the Menil attempts to enjoin the sale. The “intention” of the artist for his work to be bound up in the certificate of authenticity and the diagram but not it’s execution is charming, but does not take away from the fact that it was executed and certified and deemed authentic at the time. The dentist did not copy or recreate the drawing, he is merely uncovering it. The correct course of action would have been for the Menil to either remove or destroy the wall before the sale of the house. They didn’t, and when the title of the house was transferred so was the drawing, the fact that it was not listed one way or another is moot. If they had put in language in the deed at the time of the sale it may have protected them from this sort or thing, but apparently they didn’t. They put themselves in this ridiculous position by their actions and are now trying to convince all of us that black is white.

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