Court orders halt to display of US artist Kaws' 42m-long inflatable work in Marina Bay

Members of the public take photos of a giant 42m-long inflatable sculpture by American artist KAWS on Nov 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
The work was meant to be displayed from Nov 13 to Nov 21 on The Float @ Marina Bay. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN, BENJAMIN SEETOR

SINGAPORE - The organisers of the Kaws: Holiday showcase in Singapore have been ordered by the court to stop the exhibition.

The 42m-long inflatable work by popular American artist Kaws was meant to be displayed from Saturday (Nov 13) to Nov 21 on The Float  @  Marina Bay.

But according to a court order seen by The Straits Times, non-profit organisation The Ryan Foundation is now suing organiser AllRightsReserved, a Hong Kong-based creative studio, citing breach of intellectual property rights and breach of confidence.

ST understands that the foundation - founded by lawyer and art collector Ryan Su - was in talks with AllRightsReserved in 2019 to make the event happen in Singapore before negotiations fell apart, and that the court order was served on Saturday afternoon to AllRightsReserved.

The interim injunction orders that the exhibition stop taking place. It also orders that the sale and distribution of relevant merchandise relating to the exhibition, as well as all advertising and publicity, be stopped.

The exhibition was meant to open to the public for free from Sunday. It is not clear what stopping it will entail, and if it will require the organisers to dismantle the work.

AllRightsReserved said in a statement: "In relation to the recent groundless allegations made by a third party who attempted to cause interruption to the Kaws: Holiday Singapore exhibition, our company is in the process of seeking urgent legal advice and will apply to court to challenge the prohibitory injunction order.

"Our company takes this incident very seriously and will take all possible steps to ensure that this exhibition can progress in accordance with the laws of Singapore. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

Kaws, whose real name is Brian Donnelly, 47, said: "I have no contractual agreement with The Ryan Foundation. Their accusation is baseless."

He added that he was honoured to exhibit Kaws: Holiday in Singapore.

"The reception that I have received from the people here has been overwhelmingly positive and I am grateful to have this opportunity."

The display in Singapore is supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). Neither STB nor Kaws is party to the lawsuit.

The exhibition was meant to open to the public for free from Sunday (Nov 14). ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

In response to media queries, an STB spokesman said: "STB is aware of the court injunction against AllRightsReserved, and we understand the organisers are exploring all options."

The Ryan Foundation director Adrian Chan said in a statement on Saturday: "It is disappointing that various parties had known that confidential information and intellectual property rights, among other things, were at risk of being misused and still continue to be involved in a project that exploits home-grown stakeholders in the Singapore arts landscape. The injunction could have been averted if questions were raised and stakeholders consulted."

Mr Su, 33, told ST on Saturday evening that the order was served at 4.20pm but he saw visitors in the showcase area at 7.30pm. He added that the foundation would be filing contempt of court papers.

On Sunday, the organisers said the work is "temporarily closed".

Kaws is known for his toys, sculptures, paintings and prints.

The Singapore showcase was meant to be the seventh stop in the Kaws:Holiday tour, which since 2018 has been to Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom and outer space.

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