The Belgian artist Luc Tuymans has been found guilty of copyright infringement after losing a legal battle in his home country over the alleged plagiarism concerning a portrait the artist created in 2011. A civil court in Antwerp ruled on 15 January that Tuymans’s painting ‘A Belgian Politician’ (2011) borrowed too heavily from a photo of politician Jean-Marie Dedecker taken by Katrijn Van Giel.
The court has forbidden the artist from publicly exhibiting the painting or making additional versions of the work; according to Belgian daily, De Morgen, Tuymans will be subject to a €500,000 (£382,000) fine if he makes any further reproductions of Van Giel’s work.
The penalty imposed by the court is 10 times the damages originally requested by Van Giel’s solicitors. Tuymans did not deny using Van Giel’s image as the basis for his work. However, he claims that it was done to criticise “the move to the right wing in Belgian society,” according to his solicitor, who spoke to Flanders Today. The court did not agree with the artist’s estimation of his intent. Van Giel’s legal team said they had always found the parody claim “weak.”
“We are happy that the court was not mislead by Tuymans’ argument that his work is a parody. The court followed our argument that the work of Tuymans is not a humorous work, which is the most important requirement for a work to qualify as a parody,” Delarue, Van Giel’s solicitor told the art newspaper.
De Vroey told Le Soir: “Like many contemporary artists, the work of Luc Tuymans is based on existing images. How can an artist challenge the world with his works if he cannot use images of this world?” The artist has subsequently announced that he will appeal the verdict. Tuymans’ solicitors go on to suggest that the ruling is unjust on the grounds of freedom of expression: “This verdict prohibits a form of contemporary art and deprives contemporary artists the right to express themselves.”
There has been a recent spate of claims against artist’s for plagiarism, Jeff Koons faces a similar lawsuit in France over his 1988 work ‘Fait d’Hiver’. It was the first of two Koons works from his “Banality” series, which have been the subject of plagiarism claims.