Jean-Jacques Neuer is a lawyer and solicitor based in Paris who has represented major artists’ estates, including the Picasso Administration and the estate of Constantin Brancusi. He is a former member of the board of the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet and a former member of the legal affairs department of the International Council of Museums. The below is an op-ed published on the occasion of Rodin’s centennial celebrations.
To mark the centennial of Rodin’s death, museums around the world—from the Grand Palais in Paris to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York—are organizing exhibitions dedicated to the great sculptor. But visitors to these shows may be surprised to learn that Rodin sculpted few of the works on view directly himself. Indeed, the sculptor never produced a work in plaster, bronze, or marble with his own hands.
The Met’s exhibition of nearly 50 marbles, bronzes, plasters, and terracottas by Rodin (“Rodin at the Met,” September 16–January 15) offers an ideal moment to reconsider the complex notion of the “original work”—an obsolete but persistent idea that haunts our understanding of art history, the art market, and its legal framework.
Rodin—who created his works alone but produced them in partnership with others and was an early adopter of the multiple—took a forward-thinking approach to the “original” that would go on to inform many great artists in the 20th century. Read more