Brancusi v. United States
Brancusi v. United States, 54 Treas. Dec. 428 (Cust. Ct. 1928).
In this seminal case, decided during the early years of abstract art, the court was asked to answer the ever-vexing question of “what is art?” At issue was whether Constantin Brancusi’s sculpture Bird in Space (referred to in the reported decision as Bird in Flight) was, as United States customs officials had claimed, merely a “manufacture of metal” subject to import taxes, or whether it was a work of art entitled to . . . .