The New York Times’s Randy Kennedy tries to untangle the scrum of claimants surrounding the work of previously unknown photographer, Vivian Maier. What began as a fascinating story of an important artist rescued from obscurity has turned into a free-for-all of claimants and lawyers. Kennedy explains how a former commercial photographer took it upon himself to find an alternative heir to the one already paid for Maier’s copyright.
Meanwhile, Chicago has put its own claims into the mix leaving John Maloof, the Chicagoan who found the initial trove of Maier’s work–and promoted her–in a state of limbo:
The state public administrator’s office for Cook County, in Chicago, which is charged with overseeing estates until relatives or others are approved by the courts to do so, created an estate for Maier on July 1 and has sent letters to Mr. Maloof and others who sell her work — prints can cost more than $2,000 apiece — warning them of possible lawsuits over Maier’s assets. The Stephen Bulger Gallery, in Toronto, which lists dozens of Maier prints on its website, received a letter on Aug. 19 from a Chicago law firm, Marshall, Gerstein & Borun, representing the estate, asking it to preserve all documents related to her work and its sale.
“We are investigating the potential misuse and infringement of copyrighted works whose rights are held by the estate,” the letter said, adding that the firm anticipated “filing litigation against the responsible parties upon completion of our investigation.” An exhibition of her work is on view at the Toronto gallery.
A Legal Battle Over Vivian Maier’s Work (NYTimes.com)