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Attorney Emphasizes Political Power of Art

By Sonia Kim, Contributing Writer

Jo B. Laird, a lawyer known for her work on art sales, cautioned Harvard Law School students Wednesday that legally defending artistic creation has become more urgent after the 2016 presidential election.

Art law deals with freedom of speech, sales, auction agreements, and consignment issues that apply to a work of art, according to Laird, whom Artnet Magazine named one of the ten most powerful attorneys in the art world. Laird said that art represents the expression of ideas, and she warned that institutions have incentives to control the expression of these ideas or thoughts.

“Institutions and governments will be attracted to art or any type of creative thought that helps spread their own message,” Laird said.

In light of Donald Trump’s recent victory in the presidential election, Laird argued that it is particularly important for the American people to understand that they have an obligation to create art and engage ideas.

“Now with the makeup of the government, that’s what we got to do,” Laird said. “We have to stand up for the explosion of art that encourages people to think outside of the box.”

While Laird acknowledged the fact that job prospects for students studying art law can be sparse, she underscored its importance.

“It is really hard work, but everything you do is going to be hard work,” she said.

Laird ended her talk on an optimistic note, encouraging students to not lose sight of how they can be a part of American democracy after the presidential election.

“Just because you accept the results of the presidential election doesn’t mean you have to accept the policies that come after,” Laird said. “Where you have the right to do it, you should exercise the rights.”

Kate Wiener, a student at the Law School, said she enjoyed hearing Laird speak.

“Laird struck an incredible tone about an interesting subject in a very important moment in history,” Wiener said. “I really appreciated the conversation that Laird led since it was so relevant in the political world.”

Heather Lee, another Law School student, echoed this sentiment.

“It was refreshing that Laird connected what happened in the presidential election to art, and that this connection can be seen throughout the past as well,” she said.

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