The Financial Time ran a very good story on the increasing importance of artist’s estates in fostering and maintaining both a cultural and financial legacy. Although this section is preceded by a smug comment from a dealer suggesting there are artists whose reputations need no support (that’s a snob’s fantasy considering the waxing and waning of reputations even among the giants of art history,) the FT’s Harriet Fitch Little unearths this example of an artist who might have fared differently had he chosen a better executor:
Scott Burton, a talented American sculptor and installation artist who died suddenly in 1989. His work had “everything going for it”, says Rosen. But Burton made the unusual decision of naming MoMA the residual beneficiary of his estate, leaving it unclear who was responsible for representing and promoting the estate (museums do not usually represent individual artists).
David Getsy, a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago who is writing a monograph on Burton, says that as an early advocate of art as social practice, Burton’s legacy should be central to many contemporary trends. “It is very odd that Burton doesn’t have a place in that history and I see that lacuna as part of the impact of the confusion around the estate,” he says. Last year, the Art Newspaper wrote that Burton’s market had “tumbled” due to the inactivity and uncertainty surrounding the estate, reporting that the price for equivalent works sold at auction fell by two-thirds between 2007 and 2012.