Case Studies

Victor Cusack’ “Man, Time, and the Environment” – Negotiating with Councils

Victor Cusack Sculpture

Arts Law was able to assist sculptor Victor Cusack in his dispute with Hornsby City Council (HCC) and Westfield.

Victor contacted Arts Law in late 2005 for assistance after his kinetic water sculpture located in the Florence Mall in Hornsby (NSW) was damaged during a renovation and upgrade of the surrounding Westfield shopping centre. The sculpture entitled “Man, Time, and the Environment” is an 8 metre high, 21 tonne bronze, glass and stainless steel environmental sculpture incorporating three water clocks of ancient (modified) design and a 17 note Carillon, all mounted on a rotating barge. All the mechanisms are water powered. The huge central pendulum clock has the same time cycle as ‘Big Ben’ and a considerably larger pendulum weight, and keeps accurate time within 1.5 minutes over 2 months.

Victor was unable to persuade either the HCC or Westfield to fix the sculpture and return it to working condition. Victor felt that leaving the sculpture in such a bad unworkable condition was a derogatory treatment of his work and that it was having a negative impact on his reputation as an artist. Victor was advised that he had a moral right of integrity in relation to the sculpture and that the work should be restored to its original working condition.

Arts Law advised Victor of his legal rights under the moral rights provisions of the Copyright Act and applied to the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) for a pro bono lawyer to represent Victor in his negotiations with HCC and Westfield. As a result, Peter Banki, from the firm Banki Haddock Fiora, was enlisted to assist Victor.

As a result of Arts Law assistance, and the negotiations undertaken by Peter Banki, Victor’s sculpture was restored to its original working condition.

In a letter to Arts Law dated 15 February 2008, Victor stated:

I am convinced that the sculpture would never have been repaired without Arts Law’s considerable help in giving their opinion and soliciting PILCH’s help to find Peter Banki as a pro bono lawyer (a delightful, skilled, intelligent person). These voluntary combined efforts have been superb, definitely the major factor contributing to accelerating the repair after nearly 4 years of procrastination. It has been a significant experience watching the efforts of many privately motivated public-spirited people and government supported organizations (including the Sculptors Society) overcome this injustice and deprivation of public property, to achieve ultimate success.”

This particular case illustrates the importance of moral rights and the effective way they can be utilised to protect both an artwork and the artist’s reputation.