Jeff Koons and the Pompidou Center have been found guilty of plagiarism in a legal dispute over the artist’s work ‘Naked’ (1988) The work of art was part of Koons’s Banality series. Jeff Koons LLC, the artist’s limited liability company, along with the Parisian modern and contemporary art museum Centre Pompidou, have been ordered to pay 40,000 euros to the photograph’s right holders. Half of this sum is intended to cover the Bauret family’s legal fees. The family of the late French photographer Jean-François Bauret, whose widow brought a case against Koons for copying his work, and against the museum for using an image of the work in the advertising material for their Koons retrospective in 2014 has been vindicated after much negative publicity.
“Koons reproduced the photo and added the bouquet in order to sexualise the scene”
Bauret’s widow explained, “I met a curator of contemporary photography at the French National Library to talk about donating some photos and she showed me all the shots my husband had done that they had already … luckily, this one [Enfants] was in the 1971 collection, so there was a trace of it,” she revealed. “Koons reproduced the photo and added the bouquet in order to sexualize the scene: he admitted himself the phallic dimension of this object,” she stated. Bauret-Allard contacted both Koons and the Pompidou Center ahead of the exhibition but received no response from neither the artist, nor the museum.
The 1988 sculpture titled Naked was created by Koons in porcelain and would have been on display in his retrospective, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris had it not been damaged, when the exhibition moved from the Whitney in New York. It was however illustrated in the current catalogue which is where it was noticed by Bauret’s wife. Another similar work from the edition of three sold at Sotheby’s Auctioneers for $9 million in 2008.
Lawyers from the estate of Claude Bauret-Allard have sent a letter to Koons and to the Pompidou regarding the work which depicts a nude boy and girl. The lawyer, Stephanie Legrand, says that “her client did not receive a response to either inquiry”. The Centre Pompidou president Alain Seban said that appropriation was a common tool used by contemporary artists.
This is one of several cases where the Post Pop artist has been singled out for copyright infringement related to works. On 17 December 2014, Mr. Koons was under public scrutiny for plagiarising a 1985 advertisement used for promoting the French Clothing brand Naf Naf. The Frenchman, Franck Davidovici, who is credited for creating the original ad claimed in letters that Mr. Koons’s 1988 sculpture Fait d’Hiver is derived from his work. Lawyers for Davidovici stated that his client would be “pursuing legal action against the artist”.
Fait d’Hiver was removed from the Koons retrospective, according to a Pompidou spokesperson. The owner of the sculpture had requested the piece be returned before the end of the show’s run in Paris. Koons has been charged with plagiarism from this particular series, which is based on a number of kitsch images from the 1980s. String of Puppies (1988) and Wild Boy and Puppy (1988) are the other sculptures in question. Jean-François Bauret 1932 – 2014 died in January. Appropriation: Where there’s money There’s a lawsuit!