April 19, 2021
As reported by Art Critique, renowned sculptor Jeff Koons was recently found guilty of copyright infringement by a French appeal court. The Court upheld a 2018 ruling regarding a 2015 lawsuit brought by photographer Frank Davidovici, who claimed that Koons had copied an image that Davidovici had photographed.
The lawsuit surrounds Koons's 1988 sculpture Fait d’hiver, which depicts a woman lying in snow next to a pig wearing a ring of roses and a barrel around its neck and two penguins standing nearby. Davidovici’s photo, also titled Fait d’hiver, features a similar-looking woman lying in the snow and a pig with a barrel around its neck standing over her. There are some differences with Koons's sculpture but the sculpture is clearly based on the photograph, which Koons never denied.
Rather, Koons argued that copying and modifying existing works is his artistic format. This case raises important questions about when copying is art and when it is plagiarism.
The appeals Court ordered Koons and the Centre Pompidou to pay Davidovici €190,000, increasing their monetary penalty by €45,000. While the damages may seem significant for a copyright infringement case over a kitschy sculpture, Koons’s sculpture Rabbit sold for US $91.1 million in 2019, setting the record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold by a living artist.
Authors: Shannon Skillings and Meghan King