Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Art Market: Copyright or Wrong?

Via The Financial Times

By Georgina Adam
Published: May 20 2011 22:23


Copyright infringement is a hot issue today with Britain poised for a radical shake-up of its law on the subject. In the art market – and in the law courts – it is already squarely on the agenda as more artists incorporate “appropriation” (read: copying) into their practice. Photographers, in particular, are protesting and, in a recent high-profile case, both Richard Prince (king of appropriation) and his gallery Gagosian were found guilty of violating photographer Patrick Cariou’s rights. Prince made collages using Cariou’s images of Jamaican Rastafarians but barely changed them. An appeal is pending.

Matters went the other way in another case just settled. The European court in The Hague has thrown out a suit brought by the French luxury goods group LVMH against Nadia Plesner, a Dutch art student. In her painting “Darfurnica”, Plesner showed a starving African child clutching a swanky Louis Vuitton “Audra” handbag. Inspired by Picasso’s “Guernica”, the work is designed to draw attention to the conflict in Darfur and western indifference to it. It was put on sale in a Danish gallery for €67,000.

Vuitton accused Plesner of copyright infringement and won the initial case against her in January. She was fined almost €500,000 for continuing to display the painting. Vuitton had previously stopped Plesner showing a similar image on T-shirts and posters. But this time the artist fought back and the court has reversed the decision, ruling that the artist’s freedom of expression outweighed the importance of Vuitton’s protection of property. Plesner doesn’t have to pay the fine, the picture can be exhibited publicly and Vuitton has to pay part of her costs. “We [artists] have won back our freedom to make reference to the modern society we live in,” said Plesner. Her painting is currently on display at the small Herning Museum of Contemporary Art in Denmark. Because of the increased public interest, the show has been extended to June 19.

Related: APPROPRIATION: PHOTOGRAPHY, ART, AND "STEALING"