Jeff Koons Convicted of “Counterfeiting” by a French Court

“Naked” via

A French court has ruled that Jeff Koons’ edition of sculptures titled Naked (1988) is a plagiarism of a black & white photograph by the late Jean-Francois Bauret. Jeff Koons LLC and Centre Pompidou, the institution that hosted the artist’s retrospective that featured the scultpure, have been ordered to pay €20,000 to the estate of the photographer, another €20,000 for their legal cost, and another €4,000 in fines, totaling around $46,500. Considering that Koons’ works regularly sell for $millions at auction and that this isn’t his first plagiarism conviction, this is not really news worthy of the press that it’s been getting this week.

However, court rulings like this do muddy where the fine line in creativity lie. Being that this sculpture is in a completely different medium with novel elements like color and flower arrangement, I would have ventured a guess to say this is technically an original work by Koons. Then again, I’m no expert. According to the ruling, these changes “do not prevent one from recognizing and identifying the models and the pose”, and so it is a plagiarism.

It’s not uncommon for artists to use others’ photographs as reference for paintings or original work and leave recognizable remnants of the original photo in the final work, so when is it ok and when is it not ok? This lawsuit just seems like a quick cash-grab by Bauret’s widow, and in the process the court meddled in defining what’s considered a creative effort. Although Koons’ Naked may look similar in appearance to the Bauret photograph, it clearly does not evoke the same feeling from its viewers as the photograph does. Isn’t that novel in itself?

Here is the Bauret photograph.  What do you think?


The Broad Opens Its Inaugural Exhibition- Part One

The view as you step off the escalator to the main exhibition area on the 3rd floor
The view as you step off the escalator to the main exhibition area on the 3rd floor

The Broad is a new contemporary art museum built by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad.  The museum is home to nearly 2,000 works of art and holds one of the most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art worldwide” exclaim the museum’s brochures that were handed out to the attendees in bold, black, capitalized letters.  Angelenos came out in droves today to finally catch a glimpse of the billion dollar collection that was promised to the city back in 2010 when Eli officially announced that the Broad (rhymes with road, not rod) museum would be opening in Downtown Los Angeles.

The Broad_exterior rendering

The “veil and vault” architecture of the museum was designed by the esteemed firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who are no strangers to designing high art institutes (for example Boston ICA, MoMA expansion, and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive).  The vault refers to the carefully temperature and humidity controlled archive where the Broad Foundation conducts all its lending activities of its collection to outside organizations.  You can catch a glimpse of the vault here.

A glimpse into the "vault"
A glimpse into the “vault”

As you might expect from a museum inaugural exhibition, they played it very safe.  There’s nothing challenging, provocative, or educating about it, but plenty of familiar names and images of contemporary art are abound:  Damien Hirst, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Baldessari, Julian Schnabel, Andry Warhol, Roy Lichenstein, Jeff Koon, Takashi Murakami, Ed Ruscha, Barbara Kruger, Christopher Wool, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Kara Walker.

It is designed to draw crowds and Instagram picture tags, rather than to push the boundaries of modern art exhibition for which this opening could have been used.  I don’t think the Broad needed to cater to populist tastes to draw attendance given that the Broad name carries such prominence in the art world.  However, this exhibition does speak volumes about the vision and persistence of the Broad collection to recognize and build the talent of these artists before they had become household names.  The Broad is a collection that continuously grows at a pace of approximately one new work per week, so I’m really excited that Eli and Edythe have decided to share it with the public in this fashion.  Although this museum wasn’t built on pure philanthropy, given that museum shows will only help appreciate the value of the collection, and I couldn’t care less about the business practices of Eli Broad, this is a leading contemporary art collection that Los Angeles has been very fortunate to gain.

In Part Two, we’ll go to the exhibition area on the 1st Floor of the museum that showcases works by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

Click through to see 100+ pictures from the opening.

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