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Jeff Koons Found Guilty in Plagiarism Dispute With Naf-Naf

The US artist has been told to pay €135,000 after copying a 1985 advertising campaign by the French fashion label

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Jeff Koons, Fait D’Hiver, 1988, installation view Centre Pompidou, Paris. Photo by Christine und Hagen Graf, via Flickr.

Jeff Koons, Fait D’Hiver, 1988, installation view Centre Pompidou, Paris. Photo by Christine und Hagen Graf, via Flickr.

American artist Jeff Koons has been found guilty of plagiarism after it was ruled that his sculpture Fait d’Hiver (1988) copied an iconic 1985 advertisement by French clothing brand Naf-Naf. Koons, his business and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which exhibited the work in 2014, has been ordered to pay EU€135,000 (GBP£118,000) in compensation to Frank Davidovici, Advertising Creative Director of Naf-Naf.

Jeff Koons LLC was also fined EU€11,000 (GBP£9,582) for reproducing an image of the work on the artist’s website. The publishing house Flammarion was fined EU€2,000 (GBP£1,742) for selling a book which contained images of the work.

Despite demands by the plaintiff, the work, an edition of which was bought in 2007 by the Prada Foundation for around GBP£2.8m at Christie’s, New York, was not seized. There are three editions, plus an artist’s proof of the work in existence.

The original artwork used in the advertising campaign showed a dark-haired woman lying in a drift of powdery snow, presumably the victim of an avalanche. A young pig, with a barrel of rum attached to its neck, sniffs at the scene.

Naf-Naf is named after the third pig in the fable The Three Little Pigs, who makes its house from bricks.

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Franck Davidovici’s ‘Fait d’Hiver’ advertising campaign for Naf-Naf, 1985.

Franck Davidovici’s ‘Fait d’Hiver’ advertising campaign for Naf-Naf, 1985.

Koons’s artwork depicts a strikingly similar scene with minor changes: Italian porn star Ilona Staller (Koons’s ex-wife) replaces the model, the pig’s barrel has been switched for a garland of flowers and a penguin has been added at the edge of the artwork.

Le Figaro reported that Davidovic’s lawyer Jean Aittouares described Koons’s work as a ‘servile copy’ and explained: ‘It’s the same work in three dimensions, to which Jeff Koons added flowers, and two penguins [sic] to evoke the cold, which aims to stick to the original work.

‘He completes the plagiarism by giving his work the same title as the advert, Fait d’Hiver.

Davidovici first became aware of the work ahead of an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 2014. The work was shown as part of the ‘Banality’ series which featured other copyrighted material.

The loss of this copyright lawsuit comes after a series of high-profile cases involving Koons. Over five lawsuits have emerged from the ‘Banality’ series, three of which the American artist has lost, while a fourth was settled out of court. The most recent case was ruled against Koons as recently as 2017.

Earlier this year Koons was also the subject of public scrutiny after French culture minister Françoise Nyssen announced that a giant bunch of balloon tulips, gifted by the artist in remembrance of the victims of the 2015 Paris terror attacks, would not be installed outside the Museum of Modern Art and the Palais de Tokyo. After arguments between officials it was decided to install the sculpture in the municipal gardens of the Beaux-Arts Museum.

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