The Centre Pompidou in Paris and artist Jeff Koons have lost an appeal on a lawsuit that was brought by photographer Franck Davidovici, which claimed in a 2015 lawsuit that Koons had copied an image that Davidovici shot for the French clothing brand Naf Naf in 1985. The decision, made on Tuesday by an appeals court in Paris, upholds a 2018 judgment that found Koons and the museum guilty of copyright infringement.
Davidovici’s lawsuit concerned Koons’s 1988 sculpture Fait d’hiver, featuring a scantily clad woman alongside a pig wearing a flower necklace and two penguins. The work was part of Koons’s famed “Banality” series, which featured deliberately chintzy imagery based on pictures seen in mass media.
In the original lawsuit, Davidovici claimed that Fait d’hiver was based on a Naf Naf ad featuring a similar subject. Davidovici’s ad does not feature penguins, however, and the female model in it wears a furry coat instead of a mesh-like shirt exposing her breasts. He described having coming across the work in the catalogue for Koons’s Centre Pompidou retrospective in 2014. (That exhibition had traveled from the Whitney Museum in New York.)
This week’s decision ups the amount that Koons and the Centre Pompidou must now pay to Davidovici. Whereas the museum and the artist initially owed €135,000 (around $170,000), they know must jointly pay €190,000 ($230,400). The book company that published the catalogued now owes €14,000 ($17,000), and soon, if Koons and the Centre Pompidou continue to feature reproductions of the work online, they will owe €600 ($700) per day. Additionally, the work, which is owned by the Fondazione Prada, can no longer be shown in France.
Emmanuel Beaud, a Paris-based lawyer who represents Koons, said, “We are disappointed because the French [court] did not apply the fair use principle,” which had brought the artist a win on Previous copyright infringement cases brought in the United States. Beaud added that the case potentially represents a milestone in determining what appropriation art can and can’t be shown in institutions in France. “French museums are going to be in a difficult position now,” he said.
The Centre Pompidou declined to comment.
Koons’s work has been the subject of several copyright infringement lawsuits in the past. In 1992, Koons’s sculpture String of Puppies (1988) became the subject of a lawsuit by photographer Art Rogers, who claimed that his images had formed the basis for the work; the suit was later settled. In 2006, a court ruled in Koons’s favor after photographer Andrea Blanch alleged that the artist copied her work for a painting of women’s feet.
The Fait d’hiver suit is one of three that grew out of the traveling Koons retrospective, which also showed at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain. In 2014, Koons was sued over Naked, another work in the “Banality” series that also appeared in the Centre Pompidou show. Koons and the Centre Pompidou ultimately had to pay out $22,200 to the family of the photographer whose work formed the basis for the Koons sculpture. And in 2015, the photographer of a Gordon’s gin advertisement accused Koons of copyright infringement, in a lawsuit that is still pending.