Artists and Lawyers

Louise Bourgeois was a brilliant sculptor. I first became acquainted and fascinated with her work when I saw one of her titanic spider sculptures at the Tate Modern in London many years ago. She intermingled aspects of her personal story (and that of her family) quite closely in her art.

Over this past weekend in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I read Louise Bourgeois’ quite wonderful, insightful, and funny collection of writings and interviews, “Destruction of the Father/Reconstruction of the Father” (MIT Press 1998). In that book I came across the following passage from her 1990 MacDowell Medal Acceptance Speech, which did get my attention:

Of course, many artists freak out at the mention of money, or at least have no idea what is done with money. They become too emotional. So instead, let’s deal with their closest associates, the I.R.S., the shrink, and the attorney. If your attorney is not your best friend, you’d better change attorneys.

I’ve written about the lawyer-artist relationship before. Those thoughts are applicable to creative people in any media (writers, musicians, directors, producers, actors, etc.), not only visual artists. The same is true with the creative people who lead and work in innovative companies. Their lawyers really are there to protect and to serve. Very close friendships often emerge out of acting as a counselor and advisor.

On a day-to-day practical level it may be best to interpret Ms. Bourgeois’ statement as really saying that creative people ideally should be able to trust their lawyer as being like a best friend. There is, of course, the old observation that “if you want a friend in Hollywood, buy a dog.” If the artist has a dog, too, so much the better.

In February 2015, our colleague and friend, partner Mark Fischer, passed away. We have made his blog posts available in honor of both his nuanced and wide-ranging knowledge of intellectual property, new media and entertainment law and of his entertaining style. Please read our tribute to Mark in the firm’s Alumni Spotlight publication and his obituary in the Boston Globe.