Works On Paper

Thanks to Judd [no relation] Tully, I pulled Martha Buskirk's book, The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art down again and was reminded of how awesome it is on the fascinating conflicts between Giuseppe Panza di Biumo and Donald Judd [and Dan Flavin, and Carl Andre, and Bruce Nauman].

To one degree or another, these artists disputed Panza's fabrication of their works from plans, schematics, and certificates he had bought. The most spectacular disagreement, where Judd took out ads and wrote manifestos disclaiming sculptures and installations which Panza had realized, seems the most cut & dry. On paper.

Buskirk goes through Panza's archives at the Getty--and Christopher Knight's collection catalogue--to show that "Judd signed a series of certificates that were remarkably broad in the latitude granted to Panza," that authorized Panza and followers to reconstruct work for a variety of reasons, "as long as instructions and documentation provided by Judd were followed and either he or his estate was notified." This even included the right to make "temporary exhibition copies, as long as the temporary copy was destroyed after the exhibition; and, most astonishingly, the right to recreate the work to save expense and difficulty in transportation as long as the original was then destroyed." [emphasis, appropriately, in the original]

The questions seem inevitable, especially in an era when Panza was the first, earliest, only, or largest buyer of both Minimalist and conceptual work. In a 1990 interview, he even conflates the two: "Minimal art is closely connected to the project, and the collector has the right to produce it, but his freedom of interpretation is very limited. He must simply see to it that the fabrication conforms to the project."

Knight's collection catalogue, Art of the Sixties and Seventies, gets a special mention for making "a tacit argument for the connection between minimal and conceptual art by presenting both through an intermix of photographs of objects and installations and reproductions of plans, diagram, certificates, and other documentation." The publication of which Judd also protested, it turns out.

I wonder how much these document-based conflicts are related to the particular circumstances of Panza's collecting: remotely, en masse, via correspondence, and largely alone. He told Knight in 1985 [before these particular conflicts arose over a show at ACE Gallery in LA of Panza work that was fabricated locally instead of shipped] that he basically spent all his free time managing paperwork for his collection. It's not surprising if it all starts to look conceptual at some point.

[I'd point out that Panza and Flavin, at least, eventually got square, at least judging by the presence of one of Panza's pieces in Judd's NGA retrospective.]

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: April 27, 2010.

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