The National Galleries could have a moral and legal obligation to recognise the work of a Glasgow artist embroiled in a "stolen art" row, according to a Glasgow lawyer.

Mary Redmond claims a work currently exhibited by Barbadian-Scots artist Alberta Whittle was created using nine hammered corrugated panels from her own sculpture, unchanged and without her permission.

She says she is not seeking compensation but recognition for her work. The panels are incorporated into Ms Whittle's replica of a Chattel House from the plantation days in Barbados.

A hearing is expected to take place at the end of the month.

The Herald:

Mary Redmond's sculpture (above) and Alberta Whittle's piece, below, which is on show at National Galleries of Scotland Modern One.

The Herald:

Philip Hannay, Managing Director of Cloch Solicitors in Glasgow, said the dispute raises a number of legal issues.

He said: "Whatever happens to the physical material, she [Mary] likely still has various intellectual property rights in relation to the underlying artwork, which the material in question once formed part - for example copyright and moral rights.

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"Copyright is an interesting one because it's an automatic legal right aimed at protecting the product of labour and can prohibit a range of specific activities without consent, whether the right was intended or not.

"I think people generally understand copyright to mean that you can't reproduce something but the restricted activities are actually more broad than that.

"Importantly for artists this also includes the right to restrict the public exhibition of the artwork (including a key part) without consent.

"In this case, even though the work wasn't reproduced - because it appears to be the actual work that Mary created - the legal issue could be more about the forgotten right about exhibiting in public a work which remains, even in part, the actual original work."

He added: "There are also certain moral rights to consider. The author of a work in which copyright subsists has additional moral (as opposed to economic) rights in relation to the work.

"For example, the right to be attributed as author, the right to object to false attribution and the right to objection to derogatory treatment of the work. It might be the former forms another issue.

"For Mary, denial of attribution (as the creator of her very own work) likely means damage to her reputation over the distinctive and artistic way that she treats metal fabric," added Mr Hannay, who was a former legal advisor to the Cultural Enterprise Office, which offered free legal support to people working in the creative industries.

"Let's say I got along to an art exhibition and seen an artist who has repurposed Mary's work without credit and then I go along the next day to Mary's exhibition.

The Herald: Glasgow artist Mary Redmond Glasgow artist Mary Redmond (Image: Newsquest)

"I might think Mary is not very original because I've seen that work before. Or worse, I might (wrongly) assume Mary has copied the other artist.  So, if she is not credited it dilutes her artistic practice."

Ms Redmond, who has shown internationally, was commissioned to create a large outdoor sculpture at Hospitalfield House Arts Centre in Arbroath in 2018.

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A large part of the artwork, The Venny The Jumps, consisted of metal corrugated panels that were handcrafted, shaped and marked. After the exhibition ended, she says she suggested that the sheets could be recycled.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Ms Whittle, whose work deals with themes including racism and slavery and has exhibited at the Venice Biennale, claim she was given permission to take the sheets by Lucy Byatt, director of Hospitalfield, after a visit to Hospitalfield.

The Herald: Artist Alberta Whittle Artist Alberta Whittle (Image: Agency)

Ms Redmond has disclosed that she  faced accusations of racism on social media after the dispute was made public, which she said had been "extremely upsetting". She said she had reported this to X, formerly known as Twitter and Police Scotland.

Mr Hannah says many of these cases often boil down to the language used and its interpretation but he said many of the disputes could have been avoided if a written contract had been drawn up.

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He said "Recycling to me means more than reuse in current form. For example, you take something away, it gets deconstructed, melted down then remanufactured.

"Even if that was not the case, clarity over scope of use is important. It's one thing to ask for re-use and use the sheets on top of my hen coop, but it's another thing to re-use it in artwork that is going to form part of an exhibition and be on public view."

"Artists are hard done to, particularly in law," added the lawyer.

"My desk is heaving with cases concerning artists whose rights appear to have been taken advantage of. But the cost of litigating in a cost-of-living crisis means, for most, without good representation, they eventually capitulate.

"There is a likely a point of principle here and I'm sure lots of artists will be thinking fair play to Mary."

A spokeswoman for the National Galleries of Scotland, said: "It would be inappropriate for the National Galleries of Scotland to comment at this time due to ongoing legal proceedings."

The Modern Institute responded on behalf of Alberta Whittle, "who is unable to comment due to ongoing legal proceedings."