Monday, October 1, 2018

How Does Landlord Legally Remove Mural?

pre-historic Lescaux cave drawings 
Dear Rich: I own a building and the previous owner had commissioned an artist to paint a mural with maritime themes. The new tenant doesn't want to keep the mural. I was told by another landlord that there is a law to follow before getting rid of a mural. What's the correct legal procedure? 
Assuming the mural was created after December 1, 1990 and is recognized as having “artistic merit” or “some level of local notoriety," or is of “recognized stature” as an artistic work, the mural cannot be destroyed without properly notifying the artist. This is based on the federal Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) and is true regardless of whether the artist owns copyright or whether the artwork is finished. Under VARA, the property owner must give the artist 90 days notice. This article details what happens in the real world and explains that the landlord's primary responsibility is to "give notice at the artist’s last-known address and wait 90 days for the artist to remove [the artwork] at his own expense." A few states have art preservation laws as well. The California Art Preservation Act (CAPA) is often used in combination with VARA lawsuits. For example, when a building owner painted over a famous L.A. mural without first providing notice as required under California law, the artist sued under the California and federal laws and recovered 1.1 million.