Artist Jeff Koons and Paris’ Centre Georges Pompidou have been ordered to pay €40,000 (£35,000) to the family of a late French photographer after being found guilty of copyright infringement. A French court held yesterday (9 March) that Koons’ sculpture ‘Naked’ (1988) plagiarized a postcard picture by photographer Jean-François Bauret.
Taken in 1970, Bauret’s black and white image entitled ‘Enfants’ depicts two nude children, a boy and a girl. The photograph was later reproduced as a postcard. Part of his ‘Banality’ series, Koons’ ‘Naked’ is a one metre tall porcelain sculpture of two nude children in a near identical pose to that of Bauret’s children and sporting the same hairstyles. In a variation on Bauret’s photograph, Koons placed flowers at the children’s feet and depicted the boy handing a bouquet of flowers to the girl. However, the French court ruled that the flowers in Koons’ work “do not prevent one from recognising and identifying the models and the pose” seen in Bauret’s photograph and were insufficient to overturn the finding of infringement.
The Centre Pompidou, a contemporary art museum in Paris, which held a Koons’ retrospective from November 2014 to April 2015 was also convicted of copyright infringement. Although ‘Naked’ was not displayed as part of the exhibition due to damage it sustained in transit, the museum used images of the work in accompanying publications sold during the retrospective.
This is not the first time Koons has found himself in hot water over copyright infringement. A Manhattan court ruled in 1992 that Koons’ sculpture, ‘String of Puppies’, unlawfully copied a 1980 image of a couple cuddling eight German Shepherd puppies by Californian photographer Art Rogers. In 2015, another American photographer, Mitchel Gray, sued Koons for allegedly reproducing a photo Gray took for a Gordon’s gin advertisement. Koons’ print, ‘I Could Go For Something Gordon’s’, sold for US$2.05 million (£1.69 million) at auction in 2008. The outcome of Gray’s lawsuit is unknown.