Local Artists And Gallery Owners Speak Out
Thursday, January 14, 1999
Last year, attorney Robert Turkell says he walked through "all 108" art galleries in Carmel to see who was selling unauthorized artwork of the Lone Cypress. "I couldn't find a tree anywhere," he claims. "I'd go in and say my wife wants a picture of the Lone Cypress. They'd say, 'we don't even breathe that word around here.'"
Turkell's experience was not duplicated by Coast Weekly. A check of six galleries in downtown Carmel last month revealed two that were selling original paintings of the Lone Cypress, by painters that are not licensed by Pebble Beach Co.
While local artists and gallery owners seem well aware of the restrictions on taking commercial photographs of the Lone Cypress, few are aware that those restrictions extend to paintings created in the privacy of an artist's own studio.
Mario Simic, owner of Simic-New Renaissance and Regal Art galleries in downtown Carmel, was surprised.
"Do they have any rights over the Lone Cypress?" he asks. "I did a painting of the Lone Cypress myself. I have it displayed here in my window."
Told that the company's position is that he may not sell that painting, Simic responds, "How dare they forbid people from painting a landmark! If they were to tell me not to sell it, I'd fight them on it. I'm not going to lie down and play dead."
Diana Tumlin, director of Carmel's Zantman Galleries, finds the issue fascinating, from a legal perspective. While she understands the ban on commercial photography, she wonders how that restriction could extend to non-photographic art.
"A photographer could reproduce the same picture over and over, but I can't see a painter doing that," she says. "The interpretation is not going to be identical to a photographic image. If [Pebble Beach Co. is] not in the business of selling original paintings of the Lone Cypress, then there's no conflict."
One Carmel artist is selling a charming watercolor she painted of the Lone Cypress in a Carmel gallery. She's never heard from Pebble Beach Co., and was unaware of their restriction on what she's doing. "I know lots of artists who paint the tree, and I've never heard of anyone having trouble," she says.
Susan Santy owns two local galleries, Golf Arts and Imports in Carmel, and Cambridge Golf Antiquities at the Pebble Beach Lodge. While Santy only carries photographers licensed by Pebble Beach Co. in her shops, she was unaware of the restrictions on original artwork.
Noting that her Pebble Beach shop is situated on Pebble Beach Co. property, she says she's surprised that if what she's doing is wrong, no one from the company has commented on it. "They're very aware of who I am and what I do here," she says. "I've never had the Pebble Beach Company contact us about paintings. I was always under the impression it was artistic license. Maybe I'm a little bit nave."
Pebble Beach Co. maintains its control over its tree by issuing permits and licenses to photographers and artists through its marketing department. Most of those are one-time permits for a specific use, says Steve Wille, the company's senior vice president of marketing. Willie says he receives "60 or 70" requests for such permits every year. About one-third are approved.
Unrestricted, ongoing licensing agreements with photographers are much more rare. Willie says there are currently only "eight to 12" such licensed photographers. They must submit all photographs they take to Willie's department for approval, and those images that are approved may be sold by the photographer according to his or her agreement with the company.
Lots of folks would like that prized licensing agreement. One is Carmel Valley photographer Jay Murray. The week of April 16, 1997, when the Hale-Bopp comet was streaking across our nighttime skies, Murray shot some stunning sunset pictures of the comet from several vantage points in Pebble Beach. One of those vantage points was in front of the Lone Cypress.
Murray's intention, he says, was to use the photograph to convince Pebble Beach Co. to offer him a licensing agreement. Unfortunately for him, it didn't turn out that way.
On April 23, 1997, right about dusk, Murray was down on the visitors' platform in front of the Lone Cypress, taking photographs. As he walked back up the stairs towards his car, he saw two Pebble Beach Co. security vehicles waiting for him, lights a-flashing.
"They asked what I was doing, and I said, I'm taking a picture of the tree with the comet," Murray says. "They asked, 'Is this for commercial use?' I said, 'I'm taking it in hopes of getting involved with Pebble Beach Co.' I thought they'd flip out over the pictures. Then they said, 'Well, you're a professional photographer, you can't take this picture.'"
The security vehicles had Murray's car blocked in. Not wishing to provoke an altercation, Murray says he handed over the film in his camera. He retrieved it the next day from Kim Calanes, Pebble Beach Co. licensing manager.
On April 30, Murray received a "permit for photography" form from Canales. On the advice of his lawyer, he signed and returned the permit, mistakenly believing it was a prelude to a licensing and marketing arrangement with Pebble Beach Co. In fact, it was a retroactive agreement allowing him only to take that one photograph, and restricting its use "for editorial uses only, i.e. newspapers and magazine articles." He may not use or sell the photograph in any other way without the company's written permission.
Still, Murray believed that once Pebble Beach execs saw his photographs, they'd be so impressed that they'd want to market them. He brought the pictures back to Canales, who showed them to her superiors. "They looked at the Lone Cypress picture and said, 'It's kind of grainy, we can see the cables. We don't feel it has any aesthetic value.'"
Today, almost two years later, Murray is still holding photographs the Pebble Beach Co. doesn't want for itself, but which he is enjoined from utilizing. "I'm between a rock and Pebble Beach," he mourns.
Joann Dost, a former golf pro, is one of the handful of photographers working under license to Pebble Beach Co. Her pictures are published in golf magazines the world over, and she says that the arrangement Pebble Beach Co. makes with its licensed photographers is "very different" from those she encounters at other golf courses.
But Dost is not complaining. "I'm real happy with the arrangement," she insists. "If I didn't have a license, I wouldn't be able to take the images. Those are the rules of the game."