Hotel in Katong lifts artist's work without his permission

Left: An artist's impression of a room in Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong shows a black-and-white mural of a hat-wearing cyclist and his pillion rider, and a man making teh tarik. Mr Lee's original illustrations are in colour, and a Singapore Girl is p
Above: An artist's impression of a room in Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong shows a black-and-white mural of a hat-wearing cyclist and his pillion rider.PHOTOS: INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL GROUP, COURTESY OF LEE XIN LI
Left: An artist's impression of a room in Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong shows a black-and-white mural of a hat-wearing cyclist and his pillion rider, and a man making teh tarik. Mr Lee's original illustrations are in colour, and a Singapore Girl is p
Above: Mr Lee's original illustrations are in colour, and a Singapore Girl is pictured as the pillion rider. Two of Mr Lee's original illustrations from his series on Katong.PHOTOS: INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL GROUP, COURTESY OF LEE XIN LI

He learnt of it when upcoming Katong hotel's promo materials were posted on Facebook

Artist Richard Lee Xin Li had a rude shock on Tuesday when he saw an image on Facebook of an upcoming boutique hotel in Katong.

An artist's impression of one of the rooms had incorporated his illustrations without his permission.

Mr Lee, 27, known for his nostalgic renderings of Singapore icons, said he had never been asked by Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong, which opens next year at the former Joo Chiat Police Station, for use of his art in their publicity materials.

Mr Lee was alerted to the picture when it was posted on the Facebook page of lifestyle blog The Shutterwhale. He wrote that night: "Really unpleasant to find out Hotel Indigo Katong has taken parts of my Katong artworks for their visuals without prior consent."

Hotel Indigo is the boutique brand of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG).


An artist's impression of a room in Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong shows a black-and-white mural of a hat-wearing cyclist and his pillion rider, and a man making teh tarik (above). PHOTOS: INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL GROUP, COURTESY OF LEE XIN LI

The artist's impression showed a wall of a hotel room decorated with a black and white mural of a hat-wearing cyclist and his pillion rider, and a man making teh tarik.

Mr Lee said these were lifted off a series of colour illustrations he did on Katong. The original illustration is slightly different, with a Singapore Girl pictured as the pillion rider. The originals carry his signature.

The image was taken from IHG's website, and Hotel Indigo had tweeted it on Nov 28.

Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong is owned by Katong Holdings, which comprises three Singapore-based developers and builders: Master Contract Services, Keong Hong Construction and Asia Development.

When contacted, IHG vice-president of operations in South-east Asia Leanne Harwood said: "We understand that in the artist's impression of the mock-up room for the hotel, imagery by local artist Richard Lee was unknowingly used. The owner has reached out to him with apologies and further discussions will be held to ascertain next steps."

Ms Harwood said every Hotel Indigo property's design reflects its neighbourhood, and the owners and consultants of the one in Katong hope to do the same by collaborating with the local community.

Mr Lee, an architectural associate, told The Straits Times a representative from Master Contract Services had apologised in an e-mail yesterday, but they had yet to speak in more detail.

He declined to elaborate on his options but said: "I believe the creator of any content, be it art, architecture or literature, should be given due credit and respect."

A well-known series by Mr Lee, Kueh, shows different snacks such as ondeh-ondeh and kueh lapis.

His prints are sold at multi-label store Naiise. An A3-size print from the Katong series featuring the Singapore Girl is sold at $25.

Lawyer Nicholas Lauw, a partner at Rajah & Tann Singapore who specialises in intellectual property matters, said a person who has produced an artistic work owns the reproduction and adaptation rights to it.

"In the event of copyright infringement, the artist can get the infringer to account for the profits made through copying his works and claim those profits, or claim for any damages he has suffered," he said. "Unknowingly infringing a copyright is no defence against liability... though it may affect whether the artist can claim for damages."

Katong Holdings did not respond by press time. The image of the hotel room is no longer on IHG's website, though it remains on Hotel Indigo's Twitter site.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'Hotel lifts artist's work without his permission'. Print Edition | Subscribe