Jane Gang speaks to Artlyst about appropriation, Justin Bieber and how visual artists consistently lose out when their ideas are stolen and absorbed into the world of popular culture.
As a graduate from The Slade School of Art in 1983, My first Dialogue with the art world came out of my graduate show. It was ‘An appropriation of and graffiti on the art historical timeline’. With some added shock value: Battle Paintings. Way back then I was using wordplay and multiple cultural references within my body of work. At The Slade, at that time it was frowned upon if painters used other forms of media to express their ideas. I ignored that and made my first 25 min Super 8 movie ‘Every Master Taught a Different Way.’
I have continued to use multi-platforms to produce bodies of work: all of which are intertwined – Jane Gang
Including Series 1 of The Clean Up Saga, published in The Canyon News: Dec 2014- Dec 2015. Parts 1-11. This is semi-autobiographical and born out of my frustration and realisation that many people were infringing. During the fight to gain control to get my brand back with the little money I had left going to the NYC law firm: I had published; The history of this catchy flip of a wordplay ‘Cash Only’. I wrote the historical context myself.
In 1997 I began a new body of work. I had been thinking hard about my next dialogue with the Art World. As my previous body of work involved the emotional dynamic between 2/3 people in any given space I decided that the most powerful image here which also moved the Nude genre of painting further, was to paint live in strip clubs with the visual presence of the patron, the male, the male gaze included in the dynamic of each painting.
I made live watercolours & drawings on site, first through a friend of mine who worked at a club in New Jersey: Hott 22, then in The Pussycat Lounge in 1998 and I was also painting through another contact in London, at Sunset Strip on Frith St, 2000. By 2002 I had found The Gaiety on Times Square, the last of its kind, where young straight men danced for gay patrons.
Since the early 80s, I have been a prolific writer and had made narrative based S8 movies 1985-2001. I was also writing journalistic pieces on art and culture in NYC & London. Wordplay and cultural references are always included in my work in whatever medium. I had begun to make ID bracelets with odd words on them: ‘Bollocks’ was the first I made, in a heavy silver chain.’ The Dog’s Bollocks’, ‘Cu*t’ ‘Cash Only’ followed. I then thought it would be great to make tee shirts for strippers: ‘Cash Only’…and boy shorts, boxer shorts…and then, how funny is that for all ages, ‘Cash Only’ on tees, on necklaces, on wallets, on money clips, inside lining for jackets, bandanas etc. etc…
Thus, out of my stripper live painting series* I began to expand from being an artist held by the whim of dealers & art critics, into a businesswoman with a brand which I knew was a 100% gold mine. I made stickers and tee-shirts and had consignments in all my friends skate stores in NYC & Brooklyn. Also in London, at The Cross in Holland Park and a few stores in Portobello Road. Robbie Williams was one of my first celebrities to receive a ‘Dog’s Bollock’s’ ID bracelet as a present from a friend 2000/2001. My first press on my Brand building was in London’s Tatler, 2001
I was one of the Inaugural artists of Rhodes + Mann which opened its gallery on the Hackney Road. I showed some stripper oil paintings.
I had been living on the Lower East Side, NYC since 1996. I began to build my brand from there. I had postcards made of the Stripper Watercolours marked with ‘CASH ONLY’ and the year made. These postcards were sold in various designer-led downtown stores and were constantly given out. Stickers were everywhere. My son’s father was a legendary skateboarder from the early 80s. He had helped build Stussy & Supreme. He was at that time the face of ‘Cash Only’. Everyone knew my brand; everyone saw us wearing the tees. I sold in stores on Christopher St and some other gay stores in the West Village. I sold bracelets with ‘Bitch’ to old ladies and ‘Bad Ass’ to Christina Aguilera out of an LA store on Melrose, next to Fred Segal.
If you look at my website: www.cashonlyapparel.com there is an historical timeline of products. On the press page there is multiple evidence of my brand, the original Cash Only brand being obvious In NYC, LA, Tokyo and London over the years.
My fine art site: www.janegang.com shows off just a fraction of my body of art, it does have quite a few stripper Watercolours and oils and exhibition/ press associated with it.
At one point I had approx 30 small, hip stores carrying ‘Cash Only’ products: Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Brooklyn.
The inevitable happened in 2005: Guess Jeans copied a tee shirt ‘Cash Only’ and on a Pro bono from an NYC law firm within three weeks Guess removed all infringed merchandise from their stores and off their online store. At that time I didn’t own the TM. After that, I spent money to trademark and to ‘protect’ my brand, my intellectual property, my creative, original contribution to contemporary culture.
I was always asking people who could, to invest and help distribute: In 2008 I was asked by my gallery a the time, Briggs Robinson of Chelsea Art District, NYC if I wanted to do an Artist Capsule Collection for Member’s Only brand. It was being resurrected from the 80s and relaunched by Arnold Simon and his fashion group which included, Baby Phat, Earl Jeans and at one time: Calvin Klein. I took samples of ‘Cash Only’, including our first skateboard made to show him, he must want to invest in this brand, already a hit on the downtown scene? But no.
My beautiful son, Boulevard was born in 2008. I became a single mum by the end of his first year. Juggling had become an issue.
In 2012 I saw over 12 fellow streetwear labels (from the same scene) infringe and sell ‘Cash Only’ tees, hoodies, snapbacks etc. on over 50 web stores and I found some on overseas stores too into Asia, Australia: It was a worldwide infringement. Gone was the respect by fellow street wear labels from back in my day, by the likes of Futura 2000 etc.
In 2014 I hired Frankfurt Kurnit Klein Selz, an NYC Law firm with a respected Intellectual property department. To no avail. The goal posts had changed, and no one cared if you owned the TM or not. The infringements continued. They were making money from my original concept, my intellectual property.
I also had a meeting with Jaggi Singh, A3 Strategic Partners Ltd who had bought the rights to Member’s Only brand from Arnold Simon in 2009…funny that…I never got paid one penny from the Artist Capsule Collection, which had appeared on ENews & was sold at Kitson and other outlets. Anyway, I set up a meeting with him to see if he would invest in my brand Cash Only. As, this time apart form cool stores and cool graphics I could also show him how exactly the world wide appeal this brand has: via all the multitude of the Global sales made by my infringers of my trademark who were selling directly from the production line onto online stores: from Urban Outfitters, Karmaloop to Nordstrom. This included huge brand names like Fresh Jive and young upstarts, Booger Kids. He too declined an interest. How odd.
Now a 21 Century Artist’s worst nightmare: Within a matter of a few small hours: Millions of an even younger generation and all get to see Justin Bieber’s latest catchy tune to buy into: by promoting and endorsing his friend Joe Termini ‘s body of art which includes the use of the catchy word play, out of context: ‘Cash Only.’ A couple of the body copy & You-Tube copy examples from main stream press reads: ‘…the words promote the art work of his longtime artist’s pal Joe Termini (The MegaAgency) and from Metro newspaper online: ‘The words ‘Cash Only’ painted on the side are thought to be the work of his photographer friend Joe Termini who uses the phrase in his creations’
As my brand (2001-date) was born out of my original body of fine artwork: The stripper series (1997-2003) Not only is this a case of Intellectual Property, Copyright, Trademark and Plagiarism, it is also what one might call an Art Heist of another artist’s body of work in progress: Specifically taking the credit for, the worldwide publicity and profiteering from over 20 years of my groundwork, practice, skills, creative mind, giveaways, and building my brand one brick at a time. I’ve paid everyone who ever worked for me over the years, and I have funded Cash Only products myself over the years while actively seeking investors and living my life.
One has to ask: what would be the next step for Termini & Beiber with this? Clothing and other products, a lifestyle brand? Both are intelligent and well versed in brand building, endorsements & how to promote. Bieber was the face of Calvin Klein and has his own line, whom funnily enough Robbie Williams has been seen wearing his kit.
Joe Termini, although being almost two generations younger than myself most definitely knows of my original brand as we have mutual friends and ‘Cash Only’ stickers and tees were everywhere on the hip downtown scene.We have shared friends in high profile professions who know that that brand & its history is mine. It is quite possible that, as a fan of Supreme & Thrasher, Justin Bieber himself may be fully aware that that is my brand as well.
I do not have that volume of circulation or fan base at present. I have been building my brand since 2000 and onwards from 2008 through very difficult circumstances. These already rich young men cannot just swoop in and take the credit for and profit from my integrity and creations as an artist and business woman, with a young son to provide for. What does my son, Boulevard think about all this? What message is Bieber giving out to these kids, his fans? These two clowns go to Hillsong Church; Pastor Carl Lentz is one of their buddies. I take my son to Hillsong, Harvest Church & Kensington Temple, its the same bible based teaching of Jesus Christ. So now will they be seen to promote theft? It’s not rocket science is it?
I spoke to the showbiz dept at The Sun newspaper a few days ago, and they refused to amend their ‘inaccuracy ‘ of the main fact in their reporting. This is no way to treat a senior British Artist who has contributed widely to the cultural scene for over 35 years. As an alumnus of the Slade School of Art back in 1983, I have worked hard at my profession, my vocation. Perfecting my skills and expanding into other creative fields: Into business, writing, curating: promoting many other artists and filmmakers and a short film-maker myself. It is shocking to be treated like this in this country or in the USA as everyone, of those ‘gatekeepers’, know my work.
The Bieber / Termini juggernaut of pain and heartache has prompted me to write Series 2 of The Clean Up Saga.
By turning to my creative tools: in what ever medium I use this to fight and defend the rightful ownership of my Intellectual, Property. Writing became a way to do this while I had had lost everything. I can’t afford watercolour paper right now…but as I said: people know who, I am. I’m nearly 60. It’s a small world. I refuse to allow art dealers to profit from my body of work when I’m dead.
Instead of feeling victimised, as this type of infringements and stealing has been happening since my Slade School graduation. I use my creativity to go step one bigger and beyond. No one can stop me jump over all my infringers, and my work just gets better the more I practice, experience & learn the lessons life throws at me. Here’s a challenge for the readers: Who’s ‘Cash Only’ artwork and products are the best? Is it the original, true, authentic ‘Cash Only’ brand (see website) or any of the others out there. Remember folks: ‘Monet Grows On Trees.’
I have been made homelessness again with my young son who’s nine just last week. Seriously, the irony is overwhelming even for British standards. Coming back to my own country of origin three years ago has been an eye-opener. I have declared myself a #BritishDissident because if this is how this country treats its elder Artists, then I’d rather change citizenships.
My brand ‘Cash Only’ obviously is HUGE as I have had so many infringers since 2005. This is a Global brand and still with the freshest graphics beyond any of the infringers, even by those who have set themselves up as Cash Only brands. Seriously this must be the most infringed upon contemporary Label EVER (this is a challenge!).
On my website: www.cashonlyapparel.com everyone can see the history, and the MO of the true ‘Cash Only’ brand.
On the press pages: A time line of Press starting in 2001 www.janegang.com for a few series of work over the years.
2017: One of my narrative short films is now in the Getty Research Institute via Miranda July’s Joannie4Jackie series.
That’s a huge distribution of illegal information out there via Bieber’s fanbase. This is unethical for fellow journalists to do this. It is unethical of the British press to do this. How many of these journalists are NUJ members too? Why would they have the right to steal from another NUJ member? Is that ok? No of course not.
See twitter: janegang & ganglandempire
Instagram: gangland empire (and: cashonly ®TM) for exposing the truth/facts unfolding live,
*Halfway through Art Photography had taken off in a big way. The strip club was one place the authentic Art photographer couldn’t get in the door.
Words/Photos Jane Gang