UPDATE: Rebecca Belmore Quits?

Rebecca Belmore in her performance "Worth" on Sept 11, 2010

I am posting this announcement made by Glenn Alteen on Facebook. Not everyone uses Facebook, which is why I am reposting it here on Not Artomatic. I have desperately searched for information on this situation and it has been hard to find – well, here are the details:

by Glenn Alteen

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 14, 2010

On Saturday September 11, 2010 Anishnaabe artist Rebecca Belmore performed her new work WORTH (– Statement of Defence) outside the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG). A small audience of artists and curious onlookers gathered as witnesses to the per…formance. (Belmore also donated an earlier work, Wild, (2001) to the VAG.)

‘Witness’ is appropriate in this context, as is the setting of the VAG, a former courthouse building. The performance and the video memorializing it, are Belmore’s response to law suits filed in the Ontario courts involving her former art dealer, Pari Nadimi of Toronto. The work demonstrates the artist’s public commitment to vigorously defending herself, her art practice and more broadly, the rights of all artists against those who seek to exploit them.

WORTH (– Statement of Defence), may be viewed at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv9DfVAzok4

Belmore is an acclaimed artist with an international reputation. She has practised in various media, including performance, sculpture, video and photography for over 20 years. Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally since the 1980s, most notably, representing Canada at the biennials held in Venice, Sydney and Havana. She also holds an honorary doctorate from the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD). In spite of the artist’s significant and broadly-recognized contributions to contemporary art practice, this ongoing litigation, threatens Belmore’s future.

WORTH (– Statement of Defence), which features the sign, “I AM WORTH MORE THAN ONE MILLION DOLLARS TO MY PEOPLE,” speaks directly to the value of artists and art production in the 21st Century. The sign also references the amount of ‘damages’ being claimed by Pari Nadimi, an amount the dealer claims she has ‘invested’ in Belmore’s career. Nadimi’s allegations are unproven.

The legal battle began over 4 years ago, when Belmore, after deciding to leave the Pari Nadimi Gallery, requested the return of her artworks, related documentation and the payment (and an accounting) for artwork sold by the dealer. These basic, legal rights are still being violated. Belmore recognizes the importance of the case for herself and others: “If Pari Nadimi is successful in this claim against me, it would mean no artist would ever be free to choose to leave. Artists would be slaves to their galleries. This is a horrible precedent.”

Litigation is expensive. Belmore needs to raise funds to travel to Toronto and to continue to defend herself in this action. While claiming to be impecunious and unable to pay, Nadimi has hired a top Bay Street law firm, Heenan Blaikie. Ironically, the firm’s founder, Roy Heenan, has been a consistent supporter of Canadian art.

WORTH (– Statement of Defence), is therefore an appeal to the public to defend and support “the Artist” and the rights of artists to decide how and where their work is presented. Organizations such as CARFAC < http://www.carfac.ca/> and others do valuable work to create conditions to ensure rights are protected and respected. However, they lack the mandate and resources to support individual artists in these cases.

Call To Action: A growing number of prominent Canadians in the art world have voiced their support for Belmore, see our website or Facebook for these names. In addition to the moral support, Belmore is seeking donations to defend herself in this litigation. To support her and artists right generally on Facebook


A site is being set up currently and will be linked here when its onlineFor more information about Rebecca Belmore, please see: http://www.rebeccabelmore.com/home.html

11 thoughts on “UPDATE: Rebecca Belmore Quits?

  1. Rebecca…what can I do? Sending you support in whatever way you need. You rock Rebecca and I am so honoured to have shared time with you over the years. Blessings of courage and love

  2. Guess all artists can learn from this. In this changing world, does any artist really need to bind themselves to one art gallery?

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  5. There doesn’t seem to be any information regarding:

    1. Why she is leaving the gallery. What are the circumstances?

    2. Did this art dealer actually invest this kind of money into promotion?

    3. Was there an agreement in place that if promoted to that extent that Rebecca would stay on for x number of years?

    I support the rights of artists wholeheartedly but this article feels very incomplete. I’m an artist and I realize and appreciate the investment galleries make in the artists they represent.

    • Aaron,
      Unfortunately, there are limits to the details of this case that can be made public while the matter is before the Courts. Judges in Canada frown on that sort of thing and it may hurt rather than help Rebecca’s cause.

      However, in answer to your first question: Rebecca doesn’t actually need a reason to leave the gallery. She does however have several reasons that contributed to her dissatisfaction with the way the gallery was representing her which ultimately led to her decision to terminate the relationship.

      The Rebecca Belmore Legal Fund was established to raise funds to help her retain a lawyer. We specifically avoid presenting any facts that might give the appearance of “fighting this case in the public domain” (e.g. media, website or Facebook). Hence the shortage of details.

      • It seems you’ve conflated my curiosity surrounding the details of her decision to leave the gallery with her actually *requiring* a reason to leave the gallery. Obviously she had one or more reasons, needed or not. You addressed this in the second half of your paragraph which makes the assumption of my motive for asking the question essentially moot.

        I believe artists should be free to choose their own representation and if there is no legally binding constraints or agreements then they should be able to do so at any moment of their choosing.

        From what I’ve been able to gather from my limited research on the issue, there may have been some discomfort with the gallery’s approach to selling and representing what might be described as culturally and/or spiritually sensitive materials. Or it may have had to do with the artist having second thoughts about commodifying those aspects of her heritage based on her experiences and observations of the results of doing so either by herself or others. In addition, there seems to have been some issues with timely payment for pieces already sold. Or maybe none of the above.

        As an artist who also happens to be First Nations and had my share of working with galleries I can understand this point of view.

        I support this cause, but you must surely understand that with so little information available it’s only natural to ask questions. After all, there is an element of asking us out here to offer our blind trust based on allegations of impropriety by the gallery owner and the inherent correctness of the artist.

        As I said, I’m in support of the cause, but it’s only natural to be curious.

  6. Thank you, Randall and Aaron for your posts/replies. I agree with you both… it is difficult to find information, it is important not to hurt the artist’s case, and yet, this case could have implications for many artists. Thank you both for your thoughtful comments.

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