Oh, that silly European Commission!

By Harriet Staff

This is not a story about poetry, but it's pretty amazing. According to ArtInfo, the European Commission ruled that artworks by Bill Viola and Dan Flavin are not art, because they resemble utilitarian objects, and thus they are subject to a higher tax rate:

The issue first arose when Haunch of Venison imported six disassembled video installations by Viola into the United Kingdom in 2006 and also sought to import a light sculpture by Flavin, the Art Newspaper reports. The British customs office refused to apply the five percent tax rate for artworks, instead taxing the gallery £36,000 ($66,000).

In its decision, the European Commission describes the Flavin work as having "the characteristics of lighting fittings... and is therefore to be classified... as wall lighting fittings." In a discussion of Viola's work that really split hairs, the commission stated that Viola's video-sound installation cannot be considered sculpture "as it is not the installation that constitutes a 'work of art' but the result of the operations (the light effect) carried out by it."

Originally Published: December 22nd, 2010