PetaPixel

Art Collector Sues William Eggleston for Selling New Prints of Iconic Photos

Last month we reported that 36 digital pigment prints of photos by William Eggleston had been auctioned off for a whopping $5.9 million. At least one man wasn’t too happy about the news: a New York-based art collector named Jonathan Sobel has filed a lawsuit against Eggleston, claiming that the photographer’s decisions to sell new, oversized prints of his iconic images has diluted the resale value of the originals. Sobel owns one of the largest private collections of Eggleston’s photographs — 192 photos worth an estimated $5 million. He is seeking unspecified damages and also a ban to prevent Eggleston from making new prints of his 1960s suburbia photos.

(via WSJ)


 
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  • Megan Radich

    This is just ridiculous. I hope he doesn’t win. :/

  • Alex Glanville

    I don’t think it’s morally right to reprint photos that have already sold for a high dollar, but unless they were not labeled as “Limited Print” during sale or advertised as such I also don’t see anything wrong about reprinting them.

  • Tttulio

    The Federal Reserve does this all the time.

  • -MARS- Photography

    this is why you don’t buy prints… you buy negatives.

  • Sportsguy831

    The works in question were limited editions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/xsportseeker Renato Murakami

    Unless Jonathan Sobel payed exclusive reproduction rights for the images, having ownership over even the author, his claims holds no water.
    Then again, I know nothing about how law works in cases like these.
    Still, must be pretty bad for a collector to be sueing the artist behind his collection…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=744079103 Dov Hechtman

    Its the artists work he can do anything he wants with it unless there is an actual contract liming his ability to do so.

    These may have been a limited edition but that was the edition that was limited. Or to put it another way that print is # whatever of that edition of say 1, 10 100 or so prints.

    So he’s making some new ones the gent in question owns one of a limited number of early first versions of the prints, he has lost nothing on whats a speculative bet anyway.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UMRJBOOIMADJYZKE42NT6NBWCU Albin

    I disagree.  The “limited edition” status of a print should be a clear contractual commitment – sometimes apparently it might not be clear enough.  Buyers are acting in good faith and pay a premium when the set is held out to them as being limited.  The photographer can protect herself and/or heirs and legatees against price appreciation of the limited set by saving several of them.  Again, the legal Devil is in the details of the original purchase, but in principle the concept of limited edition prints should be a legitimate basis of sale and a legally protected contract provision of the sale.

  • http://profiles.google.com/peter.andersen Peter Andersen

    Editions are usually based on the size they’re printed at as well.  If Eggleston decided to issue a new series but of a different size that’s his prerogative and it shouldn’t be confused with (or devalue) the original series.  Look at Ansel Adams’ works – the earlier, smaller editions are still worth much more than later, larger prints.

  • Igogosh

    The old series will still be the same value, now the buyers will know there’s a second limited edition. The 1st edition was limited to 50 prints, for example. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UMRJBOOIMADJYZKE42NT6NBWCU Albin

    Again, the minute images are sold in a “limited edition” there is an implicit interest in scarcity and money – it’s no longer a pure matter of beauty and high mindedness and the buyer is investing in the limited number of available reproductions. 

    Depending on the terms of sale, it’s likely a fact that the unexpected “second edition” that was never contemplated at the time of the sale substantially dilutes the value of the first edition – if Apple issues $10 billion in new shares watch the stock price drop.  It may be that, like collector’s editions of books, a “first edition” will have a permanent patina and value, but may be not.  The question is what the buyer was told she was buying at the time she bought it – if she was told explicitly or maybe implicitly that there would be no more reproductions, that should form a legal and enforceable contract. 

  • Alex Glanville

    Ah, good to know. The article states that the reprints were larger, so technically he didn’t reproduce the original(s) but the prints weren’t mass produced so their limited printing may dilute the first editions. 

    First & Second editions are whole can of worms I’m not familiar with, though.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/ZY4BUCRFVPHDOEHQV4TRWQ3IVE John Arthur

    With all due respect to Lumiere Editions, who produced them to order and are not to blame, the new “Editions” are nothing more than fancy posters.

  • Angus

    The devil is in the detail…

    But I’m enjoying reading the hypocrisy in comments between this article and the Skechers article. From a simple moralistic view, everyone wants the blood of skechers for a “breech” in contact, while everyone supports Eggleston for being what i consider under handed (with the facts on the table) breech of contract for limited edition prints.

    I love this blog and I love the commenters, but seriously, talk about have your cake and eat it…

  • -MARS- Photography

    There are a number of Artists, Painters Primarily, that sell their originals at art shows.  If successful, they will attempt to paint the same thing.  Sure its not the same EXACT painting, nor is it a copy, but the idea of having something unique is what creates value. 

    Sure there have been many visionaries, and inventors, fore-warders and such, But would you buy Ben Franklin’s toothpick for 5.9Million?  of course not… the key he tied to the kite… ABSOLUTELY… In my opinion, this was just an overzealous collector, hoping to score some points among friends… now he looks like a tool… because he failed to read into it more, like he should have.

  • Sportsguy831

    It is the idea of having something unique that creates value.  That’s why having more of them produced diminishes value.  To use your example, don’t you think Ben Franklin’s kite key would be worth less if there were found to be 10 of them, rather than just 1?

    NY and CA, among other states, have laws governing multiples.  This is a disclosure issue.  You can’t tell people you’re only going to make 10 of something and then decide to make 20.  Artists get paid more per image to create limited editions.  They can’t then decide to just print more on a whim when they’ve sold out of the work.  If an artist doesn’t want to be bound by the rules, than just don’t limit your editions.

  • Roualt

    Earlier prints are always more valuable, so I do not see this as diluting the value of his prints. Later prints are never as sought after by serious collectors, even if they are technically better prints.

  • Damianmonisvais

    Earlier Prints Where Dye-imbition prints, not Digital inkjey prints ssoooooo the new editions are far less in value then the first edition. Eggleston prints his work as dye-imbition prints not inkjet. So the guy suing should not be worried whatsover, he just wants a monopoly on eggleston ownership

  • PJ

    I see this as an ethical issue, not necessarily a legal one. I believe an artist should be clear to the client about what is being provided and then stand by it. The artist should not reinterpret a definition just because an image becomes more popular than expected. I state up front that my total number is the number for that specific image, whatever the size. They are signed and numbered. If I create a different image from the original by cropping differently or applying some kind of artistic filter, then it becomes a different image and a new number.

  • http://twitter.com/mikjames mikjames

    The idea a creator made a promise irredeemable makes it clear the initial intent of the creator is of no merit.The fact this buyer/collector was victimized by the creator’s fallacy speaks volumes to the value of the creation and where the creation may belong – be it in our hearts, wallets, walls and/or septic tanks.What is left is for attorneys and law makers to syphon off from whom ever they can as no one (today – here in the USA) has a real clue as to where this creator belongs in the world where Trust & Value is determined by the powers that be.People have no idea what Liberty is any more – as this article clearly articulates.

  • http://twitter.com/mikjames mikjames

    The idea a creator made a promise irredeemable makes it clear the initial intent of the creator is of no merit.

    The fact this buyer/collector was victimized by the creator’s fallacy speaks volumes to the value of the creation and where the creation may belong – be it in our hearts, wallets, walls and/or septic tanks.

    What is left is for attorneys and law makers to syphon off from whom ever they can as no one (today – here in the USA) has a real clue as to where this creator belongs in the world where Trust & Value is determined by the powers that be.

    People have no idea what Liberty is any more – as this article clearly articulates.

  • Tttulio

    If you sell ART prints,  just burn the negative afterwards.

  • Brian Coyle

    There’s irony in watching a wealthy collector and wealthy artist compete over value.  But the issue isn’t so removed from ordinary artists and collectors.  Today, more than ever, art can be made with technology where one more copy costs almost nothing.  That doesn’t make the creation less valid as art, but it does change the relationship of seller and buyer.  Unless artists persuade buyers, by means legal and/or force of character, that the product is custom and limited, art will gradually lose its high culture value. Rebels might welcome this, but good artists who spend long years in poverty hoping to make money in the end, have to be concerned.

  • Guest

    This is ridiculous. If he (Eggleston) decides to print more than it is his prerogative. Perhaps Jonathan Sobel should just collect dead photographers’ work, then he doesn’t have to worry about the re-printing aspect. Dead photographers don’t print.  Problem solved. What a senseless lawsuit? Sobel should be counter sued for being an ass.

  • Robert Jones

    ‘Limited editions’ should mean what they say. If 50 were initially printed and numbered, then no more should be produced of that same, identical image.

  • http://www.rockpaperphoto.com/ limited edition photography

     many unknown reasons …………

  • bearcoat

    a print of a different SIZE is considered to be a different edition. Just as books can have a first edition and a second edition etc..

    a second edition book does not usually impact the value of a first edition.