A French Appeals Court Has Found Jeff Koons Guilty of Copyright Infringement Again—and Hiked Up His Fines


In a double hit of bad news for art star Jeff Koons, a French appeals court not only upheld a 2018 decision that found him and the Pompidou Centre guilty of copyright infringement, but also increased his fine.

French photographer Frank Davidovici initially brought the lawsuit in 2015, alleging that Koons had copied his photo for an ad campaign for the clothing line Naf Naf. Koons’s 1988 sculpture Fait d’hiver, from his “Banality” series, depicts a woman lying in snow next to a pig wearing a ring of roses and a barrel around its neck, and penguins standing nearby. Davidovici’s photo also shows a female model lying in snow in a similar position with a pig (which is the Naf Naf mascot), also wearing a small barrel around his neck. Davidovici’s image did not feature penguins, and his model wore a jacket as opposed to Koons’s model, who wore a revealing mesh top.

Davidovici saw the work in a catalogue for Koons’s popular 2014 retrospective that debuted at the Whitney Museum in New York and later traveled to the Centre Pompidou.

Jeff Koons, Fait d'Hiver (1988) Photo: Courtesy Christie's via artnet Price Database

Jeff Koons, Fait d’Hiver (1988). Photo: Courtesy Christie’s via Midnight Publishing Group Price Database

 

Davidovici sought €300,000 ($352,000) in damages and for the state to seize Koons’s sculpture. In 2018, the Paris court ordered the artist and the museum to pay Davidovici a total of €135,000 ($153,000).

The artist’s associated LLC was also fined €11,000 for reproducing the work on Koons’s website; a publishing house that sold a book with the image was fined €2,000. The court denied the request for the sculpture’s seizure.

Now, the appeals court has raised the amount that Koons and the Pompidou have to pay to the photographer to €190,000 (an increase of €45,000). The decision, filed yesterday, was first reported by ARTnews. In addition, if Koons and the Pompidou continue to show reproductions of the work online, they will owe an additional €600 ($700) per day.

Neither Gagosian Gallery, which represents Koons, nor the Pompidou Centre immediately responded to requests for comment. Davidovici’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an unusual twist, shortly after the November 2018 decision in favor of Davidovici, as Midnight Publishing Group News reported, Elisabeth Bonamy, the art director who said she conceived and executed the visual elements of the ad, said she had not been properly credited for her role in the ad.

“Franck has always taken advantage to make his name famous while completely forgetting me. It’s not very elegant,” Bonamy told Midnight Publishing Group News. She said that Davidovici’s credit-taking had also upset the photographer of the advertisement, William Klein.

Bonamy did not respond to Midnight Publishing Group News’ comment on the most recent legal decision.

In November 2007, a porcelain version of Fait d’hiver sold for $4.3 million at Christie’s. In 2001, a porcelain version offered at Phillips, failed to sell on an estimate of $1.5 million to $2 million.

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