Georgina Adam talks about the spate of lawsuits involving copying from artists’s work. Although there is surely a dimension of delusional greed in the recent suit against Richard Prince—whatever the merits of Prince’s copying, it is clear that the source work would never be anywhere as valuable as Prince’s works currently are—there’s also the understandable frustration at losing control over the imagery an artist has created.
The latest case is against Swatch, the maker of Omega, who is convinced it had the right to style a watch ad after a work of art.
in Paris, the Saudi artist Ahmed Mater filed a court complaint against the Swiss watch company Omega, saying that it copied his 2012 work “Magnetism”, showing iron filings around a square black magnet — like the Kaaba in Mecca. Omega, says the artist, had talked to him about the concept, but no contract was signed and no authorisation was given. Omega made advertisements based on “Magnetism”, and the artist is demanding that the adverts be banned, and that Omega pays more than €1.3m in damages. According to his lawyer Michel Dutilleul-Francœur: “Omega replaced the Kaaba with a watch in the advertisement, and particularly at the moment this is causing huge problems: he is no longer safe in his native country.”
That last bit of hyperbole is pretty hard to credit. The artist faces death threats because a European country substituted a watch for an object that alludes to a sacred site?
The Art Market: The imitation game (FT.com)