If you own a work of art, are you allowed to eat it? It’s unlikely that any serious collectors have pondered this rather Seussian question—but it did pop up on Reddit
last month, and we decided to get to the bottom of it.
The answer, as with most things, is: It depends. In the United States, whether or not you are legally allowed to eat (or burn, slash, or destroy) an artwork depends on whether said work falls under the protection of the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). In America, property rights generally reign supreme—meaning that, if you own something, you can pretty much do whatever you like with it. But VARA carves out slight exceptions, affording visual artists certain rights over their art long after it has been sold or otherwise ceases to be their property. In this case, they have the ability to prevent their work from being eaten or otherwise destroyed.
As we’ll see, however, VARA doesn’t protect every masterpiece from ingestion. We’ve cooked up four different scenarios to test the law—time to dig in.