Jeff Koons in breach of copyright, rules French court

Fait d'hiver (1988, above), a sculpture by American artist Jeff Koons, at the Venice Biennale in 2011.
Fait d'hiver (1988, above), a sculpture by American artist Jeff Koons, at the Venice Biennale in 2011.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • A French court has ruled that Jeff Koons has piggy-backed on another person's work.

Fait d'hiver, a 1988 statue by the American artist, features a woman lying in snow being nuzzled by a pig.

There is also a 1985 advertisement for French clothing brand Naf Naf that depicts a similar scene.

After Mr Franck Davidovici, creator of the advertisement, sued in 2015, the court in Paris has now ordered Koons and other parties, including his company and a book publisher, to jointly pay almost US$170,000 (S$235,000) for breach of copyright and damages.

The amount is small compared with the value of Koons' Fait d'hiver, which the Prada Foundation bought for more than US$4 million at auction in 2007.

The court dismissed the defendants' arguments that Koons should have freedom of artistic expression, the work should count as a parody and that Mr Davidovici did not file a complaint for almost 30 years.

The court judgment noted that the statue has the same "very recognisable staging" as the advertisement, pointing out that even a lock of hair on the woman's face is placed in the same position on the left cheek.

This is not the first time Koons, 63, has found himself in trouble over works that appeared in his 1988 exhibition Banality, based on images from advertising and magazines.

Shortly after the show in New York, he was sued by photographer Art Rogers, whose image of a couple holding eight German shepherd puppies formed the basis of the sculpture String Of Puppies.

The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Koons also settled two other lawsuits, including one with United Feature Syndicate over his use of the character Odie from the Garfield comic strip.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2018, with the headline 'Jeff Koons in breach of copyright, rules French court'. Print Edition | Subscribe