Art: Custom House Esthetes

Rumanian Sculptor Constantin Brancusi had to pay $4,000 to bring his Bird in Flight into the U. S. (TIME, March 7, 1927). 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." The press bantered, jibed. Indignant modernists wrote abstruse, defensive paragraphs. Sculptor Brancusi complained...