Jeff Koons Sued for Liquor Ad Appropriation


     MANHATTAN (CN) – Sold at auction for more than $2 million, a Jeff Koons painting titled “I Could Go for Something Gordon’s” is a “near-identical copy” of a 1980s liquor advertisement, a photographer claims in court.
     Known for appropriating banal imagery on a grand scale, Koons debuted the work among his “Luxury and Degradation” series in 1986.
     The series also reprinted ads for Hennessy, Dewers, Martell and Frangelico.
     In 2008, the “Gordon’s” painting fetched $2.04 million at auction, but commercial photographer Mitchel Gray claims in a new lawsuit that Koons never asked his permission to use his photograph.
     Gray slapped Koons, Phillips Auctioneers LLC and the still-unknown seller of the painting with a federal complaint in Manhattan on Monday.
     “Despite fact that Mr. Koons reproduced a near-identical copy of the original work, Mr. Koons never contacted Mr. Gray or his agent, never attempted to obtain Mr. Gray’s consent, and never provided Mr. Gray with compensation or credit for the use of the original work,” the complaint states. “Indeed, sworn deposition testimony given in Rogers v. Koons, a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against him in 1989, Mr. Koons stated that he did not seek permission to use any of the liquor advertisements featured in the ‘Luxury and Degradation’ series.”
     The case cited here refers to one filed by photographer Art Rogers, who shot a photograph that Koons turned into a sculpture called “String of Puppies.”
     After the Second Circuit rejected a parody defense by Koons, the parties reached an undisclosed settlement.
     Koons has been sued at least five times for alleged copyright violations, the lawsuit notes.
     In 2007, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton described appropriation artists as those who “take other artists’ work and use it in their own art, appropriating and incorporating it in their own product with or without changes.”
     Cited in the lawsuit, that quotation comes from the case of Blanch v. Koons, which produced a groundbreaking ruling protecting the artist’s right to fair use of a fashion photographer’s image of Gucci sandals for his own work, “Niagara.”
     That case also produced a Second Circuit opinion in which Judge Robert Katzmann distinguished “Niagara” from “String of Puppies,” in that the latter “slavishly recreated a copyrighted work in a different medium without any objective indicia of transforming it or commenting on the copyrighted work.”
     Gray seeks unspecified damages for three counts of copyright infringement.
     He is represented by Andrew Gerber from the firm Kushnirsky Gerber.
     Phillips did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

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