A French court has ordered appropriation artist Jeff Koons and contemporary art museum Centre Pompidou to pay €40,000 (about $46,000 US) for infringing the copyright of a photograph by the late French photographer Jean-François Bauret. The court decision was reported by Radio France Internationale (RFI).
Bauret’s family sued Koons over a 1988 sculpture (shown at right) titled Naked, which closely copied a 1975 photograph by Bauret titled Enfants. The black-and-white photograph depicts two naked children holding hands. The Koons sculpture depicts two naked children with body positions and haircuts that are nearly identical to those in the photograph.
Koons added flowers to the sculpture, and rendered it in color, but the changes were not sufficient to fend off the copyright claim.
The museum was found liable for infringement because it published photographs of the sculpture in books and publications that it sold during a retrospective exhibition of Koons’ work two years ago. Koons was held liable for displaying images of the sculpture on his website.
The sculpture wasn’t displayed in the museum retrospective because it was allegedly damaged during transport, according to the RFI report.
Koons is known for his kitschy three-dimensional renderings of photographs by others. And he has a high-profile history of copyright infringement. In 1990, he was found liable for infringement over his sculpture called String of Puppies, which he copied from a photograph by Art Rogers. The ruling was upheld by the US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit in 1992.
Koons has defended against other copyright infringement claims since then, and has lost at least one of them.
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