A South Dakota court ruled recently that actor Kevin Costner was not at fault in a suit raised by sculptor Peggy Detmers. The artist claimed that Costner had breached a contract associated with a failed resort the actor had planned to build near a local casino. When plans for the property ceased moving forward, Costner installed the bronze sculpture, which depicts Native Americans pursuing buffalo, at another location, prompting the artist to sue him.
All-in-all, the case is an interesting education on the commerce of art. Detmers stated that she gave Costner a break on the price of the sculpture because she expected the piece to generate interest in her work. Additional merchandising opportunities, including the potential for sales of miniature versions of the piece in the resort gift shop, never materialized once the development fell through.
Indeed, $300,000 for upwards of ten life-sized sculptures does seem like a good deal. The bronze alone probably accounted for the bulk of that payment, and the artist spent more than six years on the work. Forget about working out an hourly rate – it’s probably safe to say that Detmers lost money on the deal. The contract called for Costner to sell the piece and split the proceeds with the sculptor should the resort not be constructed, but the actor (some might even call him an artist) sidestepped that contingency in court.
With all due respect Your Honor, I still feel like saying, “Come on Kevin, this isn’t Waterworld! There are rules here – or at least a little something called decency.” What’s your ruling? Share your thoughts with us here on WallSpin.
- Forget ‘Wolves’ – Kevin Costner Grapples with Bison These Days (online.wsj.com)
- Dances with Ambiguity (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Moral Rights for Moral Wrongs – Dismantling of the Bhilai ‘Flight of Steel’ sculpture (spicyipindia.blogspot.com)