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Training Ground for Democracy

  • Archive Exhibitions, Exhibition

  • Exhibition cancelled
  • Building 5

December 7, 2010 Update:

On December 7, 2010, MASS MoCA and Christophe Büchel entered into a settlement agreement resolving their long-standing dispute over an art installation Mr. Büchel was to have installed at MASS MoCA. Under the agreement, the court case and all related claims have been dismissed, and all parties have been released. In addition, Mr. Büchel will be permitted to remove from MASS MoCA certain elements of the installation that had been stored at MASS MoCA since the installation was dismantled. If those elements are subsequently resold, under certain conditions MASS MoCA will be entitled to cash payments which would partially reimburse the museum for expenses associated with fabricating the unrealized installation. The agreement does not provide for any payments from MASS MoCA to Mr. Büchel.


January 28, 2010 Update:

We are pleased that the First Circuit upheld the district court’s opinion on January 27, 2010, on the Büchel matter in most respects. In particular, the First Circuit affirmed that the museum did not act in violation of any law by covering the unfinished installation from public view, nor did it create any “derivative work” by our considered actions. The court also re-affirmed the district court’s denial of Mr. Büchel’s various requests for summary judgment.

The court did grant Mr. Büchel the opportunity to return to the district court to once again try to prove his theory that isolated viewings of the unfinished work in progress may have harmed its integrity or his reputation. While we had obviously hoped that this dispute had finally been resolved, should Mr. Büchel decide to proceed further with this case, we are confident that we exercised appropriate curatorial care and diligence in our handling of the work-in-progress — according to recognized practices that we and most other museums and artists follow in creating such works — and we are prepared to demonstrate that again in court.


MASS MoCA cancelled the presentation of Training Ground for Democracy, a large-scale installation planned with Swiss artist Christoph Büchel. While MASS MoCA provided double the original budget, increased the available time for installation by a factor of three, and made available to the artist significant additional funding to return and complete the work, the artist did not return to North Adams to finish the work. MASS MoCA’s mission is to serve as a laboratory for art-making, and the institution has worked closely with artists to produce over 60 major works of visual art and over 40 works of performing art since the launch of its earliest projects in 1996. As a core part of its mission, MASS MoCA routinely opens its spaces to the public as “galleries-turned-workshops” during the fabrication period. To determine whether MASS MoCA can make the abandoned materials and partial constructions of Training Ground for Democracy accessible to museum visitors as an open back lot workshop, the institution is seeking a declaratory ruling in the United States District Court, Springfield, Massachusetts. As part of the proceedings, Büchel will have the opportunity to present his perspective. MASS MoCA is seeking a very narrow ruling only on the right to let the public view the materials assembled for the installation.

MASS MoCA installation by John Carli