NEW YORK — Welcome back to NewsFile, your weekly round-up of newsy tidbits and happenings from the worlds of contemporary ceramic art and contemporary ceramics. This week we’re honing in on American artist Jeff Koons. Known for his iconic series of balloon animals, he’s found himself facing, yet another, plagiary accusation.
Just earlier this year in March, Koons was ordered to pay $46,000 to heirs of late photographer Jean-François Bauret, whose image Koons appropriated to create his porcelain work Naked. The Guardian writes the French Judge determined the work did not vary enough from the original photograph, thus rendering the work a plagiarism.
The court ruled that even if there were slight variations from Bauret’s photograph, these “do not prevent one from recognizing and identifying the models and the pose” in [Bauret’s] Enfants.
He was successfully sued in 1992 for the work String of Puppies (1988) and again in 1993 for the work Wild Boy and Puppy (1988).
Now, he’s facing accusations for his 45-foot-high inflatable Seated Ballerina, which was displayed in Rockefeller Center from May 12 through June 2, 2017, Artnet writes.
“Seated Ballerina is like a Venus. You could be looking at a Venus of Willendorf or some of the oldest Venuses. It is really about beauty and even a sense of contemplation, a sense of ease.” -Koons
Accusers say the work strongly resembles the work of late Ukrainian artist Oksana Zhnikrup, who worked for the Kiev Experimental Art Ceramics Factory, The Art Newspaper writes.
While some have called for Ukraine to confiscate the sculpture and install it in Kiev, Alexander Roitburd, a well-known and outspoken artist noted on Facebook that “I’m even glad that he’s popularizing Ukrainian art”, adding however: “I hope that he named the source.”
In a rebut to the plagiary accusation, a spokeswoman for Koons’ studio said he has the license to use Zhnikrup’s work.
“We are aware of Oksana Zhnikrup’s work and have a license to use it for Mr Koons’ work.”
The work may not be plagiarism, but it is a copy.
It appears that Koons has learned his lesson this time, but what’s at stake is not only Koons’ perceived (if not actual) reputation, integrity and his artistic legitimacy following several lawsuits and accusations as, but also the name of lesser known artists and their work, which may (and often, does) fall in the shadow next to big-name artists, making their work easy prey for skeezier so-called artists for abuse and appropriation. Additionally, these lawsuits have created a hyper-vigilant viewer. Instead of being able to take in a work of art, viewers are now tasked to ensure the art hasn’t been ripped off someone else, and while, to some extent, this cultivates a inquisitive audience, it can also rob them of a full experience. Who should hold artists accountable to an ethical baseline: the judicial system, viewers, their art community or (dare, we say) themselves.
Read more of Cfile’s coverage of Koons’ works.
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