November 15

Jeff Koons' forgeries


Jeff Koons' forgeries

The contemporary artist is currently in the midst of turmoil because of a pig. Indeed, during a retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in 2014, Jeff Koons exhibited a sculpture representing a pig. a pig over a young brown woman lying down. This work was inspired by a Naf-Naf advertisement, where the animal came to the rescue of a woman caught in an avalanche. The creator of the Naf-Naf advertisement therefore filed a complaint against the artist, his company and the museum.


The Court of First Instance acknowledges the counterfeiting of the Naf-Naf advertisement

Franck Davidovici, designer of the "Fait d'hiver" advertisement for Naf-Naf in 1985, had sued the artist and the Centre Pompidou for damages. According to him, Koons' sculpture is a "slavish copy" of the Naf-Naf advertisement. The artist defended himself by arguing that he had been inspired solely by it. In this respect, he points out the differences between the two works (in particular the presence of a penguin and the young woman's outfit). His lawyer also invoked the parody exception.

The tribunal de grande instance of Paris followed the reasoning of Franck Davidovici. On Thursday 8 November, the artist, his company and the Centre Pompidou were ordered to jointly and severally pay 135,000 euros in damages to the advertiser. This sum represents little for Jeff Koons' company, especially as the sculpture was created in 1988 and had already been exhibited on numerous occasions.


Jeff Koons, a veteran of counterfeiting...

This is not the first time the artist has been accused of plagiarism. In 1992, the artist was convicted in an identical case. This time it wasn't about pigs, but puppies. In his sculpture "String of Puppies", the artist had taken all the elements from a photograph taken by Art Rogers.

Left: Art Rogers, Puppies, 1985. Right: Jeff Koons, String of Puppies, 1988. Via:

The minimal differences added by Jeff Koons were not enough to rule out counterfeiting here either. The New York court had held that neither Jeff Koons' fame nor the very high price of his works should make one forget that they were a "deliberate copy" that was punishable.

In 2014, during the famous retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Jeff Koons was also charged with counterfeiting for his "Naked" sculpture. Here again, it was an almost identical cover of a photograph taken in 1975 by Jean-François Bauret. In the end, the sculpture had not been exhibited in the museum, but the Court of First Instance had condemned the contemporary artist. Indeed, the sculpture had been reproduced in the catalogue and the exhibition materials. For the judges, the variations between the two works were minimal, and "did not prevent the models and pose from being recognised and identified". It is therefore plagiarism.


Inspiration or counterfeit. Where's the line?

Sometimes Jeff Koons gets away with it, too. In 2006, he won a lawsuit in which he faced the photographer Andrea Blanch. The latter accused him of having taken over a Gucci advertisement to integrate it into his work "Niagara". This time, the judge found that Niagara was a new work, based on Andrea Blanch's photograph. Moreover, the Court found that the advertisement was not original enough to benefit from copyright protection.

Jeff Koons thus remains a regular in the courts, a significant part of his work being "inspired" by earlier photographs. The main difficulty is that it is not enough to simply add a few flowers to create a new work. Even a small amount of resemblance can constitute a counterfeit. Contrary to a common belief that "20% of differences" are necessary to rule out plagiarism, there is no clear limit. The judge has discretion.

Find out more about counterfeiting, our team is at your disposal.


art, conflict, Counterfeit, United States, Jeff Koons, Naf-Naf

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