Businessweek magazine carries a story from the Seattle Times detailing the plans for Merce Cunningham’s work and estate. The news is that the dance master who died recently at age 90 had no other assets than art. This most likely reflects the nature of modern dance and Cunningham’s inability to accumulate financial assets as a choreographer:
Most of Cunningham’s assets are paintings — artworks from Rauschenberg and Johns and Andy Warhol — and the art market is uncertain at the moment. Only $2 million dollars have now been raised toward the $8 million fundraising goal.
The story goes on to examine the estates plans for how to best preserve Cunningham’s own ephemeral art form:
In June, at a point when Cunningham was still working, the foundation unveiled a “Living Legacy Plan,” which broke the difficult news that the dance company and the school would shut down (after one international farewell tour) following Cunningham’s death. All remaining assets of the foundation (including licensing rights to all the dances and valuable original sets by modern artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns) would be transferred to the Cunningham Trust. The trust would then oversee the rehearsal and performance of Cunningham’s dances by other companies.
Detailed choreographic and scenic notes for the dances would be stored in digital “dance capsules.” The Foundation set an $8 million fundraising goal to cover the final tour, the staff transition, and the dance-preservation project.
“His basic concern was to make sure that there was clarity in respect to where the rights to the choreography lay, and who had control, and to have an orderly process,” said foundation board member Allan Sperling.
“And to make sure the trust would have the benefit of the substantial part of his estate and therefore have some funding that could be relied on.” […] The arrangement means that Cunningham’s works will migrate primarily into the repertory of large ballet companies, rather than less well-endowed modern-dance companies. In the past, however, the choreographer was sometimes wary about licensing his works to classical ballet troupes.
After Merce Cunninghma’s Work? (BusinessWeek/Seattle Times)