Thursday, December 18, 2008

For the Love of God: Damien Hirst Threatens Young Artist with Legal Action

A collage by Cartrain involving Damien Hirst's 'For the Love of God'

There has been some buzz about a situation involving a young British graffiti artist and Damien Hirst. Apparently the young artist, known as Cartrain, took a lesson from Banksy’s playbook-- he displayed one of his collages in the National Portrait Gallery under the nose of security and staff. So where does Damien Hirst come into play you ask? The collages by Cartrain, which the artist has sold as prints, involve a parody of Hirst’s ‘For the Love of God’. It seems that Hirst was not thrilled to discover that a young graffiti artist had profited from prints involving his copyright protected works.

The Design and Artists Copyright Society, of which Damien Hirst is a member, contacted Cartrain after receiving direct instructions from Hirst. The society informed the young artist that he had broken the law by infringing upon Hirst’s copyright. Hirst’s demands were clear-- he demanded the original works and the halt of sales with the threat of legal action. Hirst also demanded the profit that Cartrain had made from selling his collages and prints. Four works were confiscated by DACS from Cartrain’s gallery on November 12th. Reports state that Cartrain only earned about £200 from sales of the work.

People are defending the work of Cartrain by stating that appropriation is not theft. However, appropriation can be considered theft if the work is protected by copyright. It really boils down to a fine line decided by judge or jury. True, art schools and law have very different opinions about the implications of appropriation. In the case of Hirst’s work-- which is known worldwide-- one could make a case for parody within the protections of appropriation.

Damien Hirst is not the only internationally renowned artist waving the legal stick around these days. Shepard Fairey, the visual spearhead behind Barack Obama’s campaign, recently stated that he will take legal action against “bootleggers” who have “hijacked” his “style”. That said, I find it ironic that Damien Hirst would be upset over someone infringing upon his copyright considering that he has infringed upon the copyright of others. Damien Hirst and Shepard Fairey have two things in common-- they have both settled out of court due to infringing on the copyright of others and they have both threatened legal action against artists who have violated their protected works. The saying, “you reap what you sow”, comes to mind. Did I mention that Cartrain is 16 years old? ‘For the Love of God’-- Indeed.

Links of Interest:

‘Appropriation’ isn’t theft, Mr. Hirst

Damien Hirst 'threatened to sue teenager over alleged copyright theft'

How Damien disappointed us

With Barack Obama Posters Comes Fame

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Anonymous said...

You made some good points hidden in your sentences. Why do so many of us accept artists like Hirst and Fairey stealing off of others but if someone kid off of Myspace does it we rail against him? It is kinda sad that Hirst and Fairey have both been called the most important artist of our times when you think about how they have built their careers on art theft.

Anonymous said...

I think people are starting to focus more on issues of copyright infringment in the visual arts. We deserve what we get because very few visual arts organizations made a stand with musicians when they fought to protect their work against illegal downloads. It is chaos. You can't blame Hirst or Fairey for playing both sides.

Anonymous said...

In 2000, Damien Hirst's sculpture Hymn (which Charles Saatchi had bought for a reported £1m) was exhibited in Ant Noises in the Saatchi Gallery. Hirst was sued for breach of copyright over this sculpture despite the fact that he transformed the subject. The subject was a 'Young Scientist Anatomy Set' belonging to his son Connor, 10,000 of which are sold a year by Hull (Emms) Toy Manufacturer. Hirst created a 20 foot, six ton enlargement of the Science Set figure, radically changing the perception of the object. Hirst paid an undisclosed sum to two charities, Children Nationwide and the Toy Trust in an out-of-court settlement. The charitable donation was less than Emms had hoped for. Hirst sold three more copies of his sculpture for similar amounts to the first.

-"appropriated" from wikipedia

José Carrilho (Go Detail) said...


Of course that one must respect the law and others' creativity.
And if the artist was doing something wrong, of course that he had t obe stoped and even having some kind of "moral" punishing, like community work or something like that. Although profits might be demanded by Hirst (if they can), he'll make a better figure of himself if he donates it to a charity institution.
Damien, if you read this, please consider :-)

Kind regards,


Anonymous said...

Does anyone anticipate Hirst suing the game design studio
Swordfish Studios for their latest release "50 Cent: Blood On the Sand"
2009 wherein the goal is to reclaim the "skull"?

Sukiho said...

Good artists copy, great artists steal - Pablo Picasso

Judy Rey Wasserman said...

The copyright laws were conceived before digital cameras, home computers, ease and archival developments in digital printing were even possibilities.
If the "appropriated" works had been painted by the artists the situation would be different. However, the ease of creating collages and digitally creating and digitally producing multiples create many new questions that we in the art community need to give serious thought and debate to.
In a way, we are facing a logical progression from Andy Warhol's silkscreens made possible by the new technology.
As an artist, I see both sides. Perhaps we need to lok to other art forms, such as music and literature to see how they deal with copyrights. When does using a quotation -- as a part of Damien Hirst's For The Love of God might be , become plagiarism? Is there a percentage or amount of a work that can freely be used? Is there a point where visual artists should be paid royalties for the use of their work, the way composers or playwrights are paid for their work when it is presented?
There are many new questions. I suggest that artists and perhaps some primary market dealers need to create dialogues or debates, perhaps online so many could participate and come to a consensus. The we can advise the lawmakers. To leave it to the lawmakers to decide what is art, what is original art, and other such matters will not serve us well.
Thank you for a balanced account of the current problems.
Judy Rey Wasserman
Founder & Artist
Post Conceptual UnGraven Image Art theory
On Twitter: @judyrey