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Jeff Spencer Modernist Wire Sculpture 14

Bird in SuperSpace

Superspace was a thought-experiment in quantum physics originated in 1954 by Spencer and developed with fellow quantum physicist Claude Needham, Ph.D. during the 1990s.

The title of the sculpture was inspired by "Bird in Space" by Constantin Brancusi, a Romanian sculptor. The original work was created in 1923 and sold in 2005 for $27.5 million.

From a newsclipping of the time: "Rumanian Sculptor Constantin Brancusi had to pay $4,000 to bring his Bird in Flight into the U. S. ... Works of art are duty free. But Sculptor Brancusi's bird had neither head, feet nor feathers. It was four and a half feet of bronze which swooped up from its base like a slender jet of flame. Customs Inspector Kracke said it was not art; merely "a manufacture of metal . . . held dutiable at 40% ad valorem."

Brancusi eventually won against the customs department. In its decision the Customs Court dogmatically defined art: "It is a work of art by reason of its symmetrical shape, artistic outlines and beauty of finish."

American photographer Edward Steichen bought the sculpture 'Bird in Flight' in France. On his way back to America, he was taxed $600 by customs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum, financed the lawsuit against the customs department, again on the question of whether it was art or bulk metal. The U.S. Customs Department is still very much against modern art and has frequently taxed modern art as junk or scrap metal and in at least one case, a scupture by Pablo Picasso, "pig iron". Again, the U.S. Customs Department lost the case.

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