ArtlawTV: David Mabb on Art and Appropriation

Art and Appropriation – when does artistic freedom become copyright infringement

Artist David Mabb considers works in his practice, including a run-in with Magnum Photos and appropriating the work of William Morris.

“When I’m making art, the idea of getting permissions before I even start indicates a way of working whereby you know exactly what you’re going to do, even before you do it.  As an artist, I don’t work like that – making art for me is much more exploratory, intuitive, I’m making things up as I’m going along, and I change my mind all the time, through the process of working”

“We were going to ask them for copyright permission, and our aim was to get it on the cheap by claiming we were an educational institution and we didn’t have a lot of money…  In the nicest possible way, they turned round and accused me of stealing their photographs, and asked us to leave – after giving us a cup of tea!”
David Mabb


David Mabb is an artist. Exhibitions include: The Decorating Business, Oakville Galleries, Ontario. A Factory As It Might Be or The Hall Of Flowers, Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario. The Hall of the Modern, The Economist, London. Morris in Jaipur: The work of Art in the Context of Hand-made Reproduction for Jaipur Heritage International Festival and the British Council Gallery, New Delhi. Art into Everyday Life, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius. A Miniature Retrospective and Rhythm 69, Jugendstilsenteret/Kunstmuseet Kube, Alesund, Norway. He shows regularly at Leo Kamen Gallery, Toronto. During 2010 Mabb exhibited The Morris Kitsch Archive at Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts. He was Abbey Fellow in Painting at The British School at Rome in 2003 and curated William Morris: “ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich” at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester in 2004. David Mabb is a Reader in Art at Goldsmiths, University of London where he is a course leader on the MFA Fine Art programme.

Artist: David Mabb
Art lawyer: Henry Lydiate
Camera: Donald Bousted
Sound: Christian Burnett
Post production: Best Bits Media
Written and produced by: Lubna Gem Arielle
Commissioned by Artquest

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This article is from the Artlaw Archive of Henry Lydiate's columns published in Art Monthly since 1976, and may contain out of date material. The article is for information only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Readers should consult a solicitor for legal advice on specific matters. Artists can get free online legal information from Artquest.