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Professional Indemnity Issues for Artists in the USA

Philadelphia Beacons: Ray King 1994 - 1999

This project by experienced artist Ray King, illustrates the level of public accountability, and legal knowledge, required of artists in the US. It provides a salutary story for artists in the UK who are rarely expected take on such a high level of professional indemnity at present.

In the mid 1990s, Ray King won a commission from the City of Philadelphia for a Gateway artwork for the Avenue of Arts in the city. He proposed a luminous entry gateway - four 42 foot "Beacons" made of granite, steel and laminated glass, standing at each corner of a main crossroads to act as a ceremonial threshold for the street. Holographic laminate in the glass lanterns of the "Beacons" refracts sunlight during the day and they are illuminated at night by internal metal halide lighting.

The project became mired in legal issues when installation of the "Beacons" by the Streets department of the City Council began. In the Request for Qualifications brief, the City had established the four corners of the artwork, enlarged the concrete corners of the intersection and installed substantial concrete foundations suitable to take anything an artist might proposed. Having started work on the commission, Ray King noted that the position of two of the foundations had been altered (in order to avoid an underground utility line), and that the new locations blocked disabled-access ramps from the sidewalk to the street required by federal disability legislation. He secured the agreement of the City engineers that the department would move the ramp positions away from the "Beacons". This was never done and as a result a protracted stand-off between artist and the city over ongoing legal liability for any accidents ensued.

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Images of Philadelphia Beacons are at:




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