As we all know George W. Bush was not only a second rate President in his day but in retirement, he is a third rate painter. Now an anonymous artist has been selling Bush’s paintings emblazoned on throw pillows, tote bags and wall clocks. This is not a wind-up! All the favourites are there including Tony Blair totes, Vladimir Putin Clocks and Bush Senior throw Pillows. Society6, an online artist community has offered the items for sale, as an art-work in their own right. The proceeds were to benefit War Child International, not first on the list of Bush family endorsed charities. Sadly, all George W. Bush embellished products have now been withdrawn from sale, in a dispute over artist’s rights.
To sight the Shepard Fairey case, appropriating art without permission can be costly. Fairey lost his case against Associated Press whose photo was the basis for his Obama ‘Hope’ artwork. In an unrelated court ruling, Cariou v. Prince, the artist Richard Prince made fair use of photos taken by the French snapper Patrick Cariou, the court determined that Prince didn’t infringe on the copyrighted work. Some viewed the terms of the settlement as a vindication for Prince and other artists who borrow imagery. Copyright infringement is generally decided on a case-by-case basis, and sadly this case did not set the precedence for copyright infringement. It did, however, suggest that borrowing an original image and adding a new context, can create a new work of art.
The Society6 store offering the George W. Bush decorated items now appears to have been shut down. The link to the page redirects to the Society6 homepage. Whether this was just an artist having a laugh at Dubya, we will never know.