Art Law intersects with U.S. Customs Law more often than one might suspect.
Last week, a piece of an artwork was stopped at US border while making its way to the Frieze Art Fair New York. The relevant piece of art was a hermit crab. According to customs officials, the crab was inhabiting the shell of an endangered species. They seized the crab and sent it to an aquarium in New York.
According to The Art Newspaper, the crab was to be “the ‘star’ performer” of French artist Pierre Huyghe’s live ecosystem installation, Recollection, 2011, which was commissioned for the Frieze Projects. After the incident, a replacement crab was found, from Florida via the Netherlands. The new crab has been given a bronze cast of a famous work by Brancusi to be its home.
According to Adrian Searle at the guardian: The work is “odd and extremely beautiful. The art-encumbered crab clambers over the rocks, oblivious that the hollowed-out head it is wearing is art. Or perhaps it knows perfectly well who Brancusi is.” As long as what he’s wearing isn’t offensive to US Customs.