Last week, a person walked out of the museum with a Sol LeWitt tucked under her arm. Not the real artwork by Sol LeWitt of course, but an exact copy of the structure entitled FREE SOL LEWITT by SUPERFLEX. Ms. Bettina Lelieveld was the first person to collect her copy of FREE SOL LEWITT by SUPERFLEX from the Van Abbemuseum
. On 11 April, Ms Lelieveld filled in a form during her visit to the museum which gave her the chance to receive her own copy of the work of the American artist, Sol LeWitt, Untitled (Wall Structure) , 1972. The distribution of copies of this work is part of the FREE SOL LEWITT project by the Danish artist collective, SUPERFLEX. With this project SUPERFLEX playfully asks the Van Abbemuseum to set free the work of Sol LeWitt, and raise the issues concerning the public ownership of artworks, copyright restrictions and artistic freedom. SUPERFLEX has set-up a metal workshop inside the museum in which exact replicas of this specific artwork by LeWitt are made. Here, workmen cut aluminium, weld it into a lattice structure, sand this form and then paint it white. The copies lie stacked in a corner awaiting their new destinations. Visitors sign-up for a copy by filling in a form at the museum. The copies are distributed to the public through a random system of selection. The selected person can then collect his or her copy from the museum free of charge within two weeks.
There is great interest in the FREE SOL LEWITT copies; since the opening of the project on 10 April, the Van Abbemuseum has already received hundreds of completed forms. FREE SOL LEWITT continues until the beginning of September and the museum expects to produce about 1 or 2 copies per week.
Artistic freedom versus economic interests
FREE SOL LEWITT is a new installation made especially for the exhibition, In-between Minimalisms in the second part of Play Van Abbe. SUPERFLEX questions the museums position in the current information age where the capacity to share and exchange information is restricted by the economic interests protected by copyright. The museum is sometimes described as a prison in which the artwork is locked-away like a criminal. The museum has the duty to collect and document cultural property and to make this accessible to stimulate critical reflection, so that fresh perspectives may be presented and new developments in the cultural and social fields made possible. Yet, copyright laws can potentially prevent the museum from being able to fulfil its task. Like the current social debate about the illegal copying of images, music, film and digital media with this project, SUPERFLEX also raises issues concerning authorship, copyright and the ownership of culture that resonate throughout society. When a museum commits itself to artistic freedom in a public space, then it has to raise the issue of the rules and regulations that restrict this freedom.