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French Court Orders Jeff Koons and Centre Pompidou to Pay $46,000 Fine for “Counterfeit” Work

On Thursday, March 9, a French district court ruled against Jeff Koons in a copyright infringement case, Le Monde reports. According to the court, Koons’s sculpture Naked, 1988, is a copy of a 1970 photograph taken by the late artist Jean-François Bauret. Jeff Koons LLC and the Centre Pompidou were ordered to pay a $46,000 fine to the heirs of the photographer for “counterfeiting.”

The judges decided that there weren’t enough variations in Koons’s work, which depicts two naked children, a little boy and girl, holding flowers in a pose that’s identical to the one held by the children in Bauret’s Enfants. They said the sculpture does “not prevent recognition and identification of the models.”

The Centre Pompidou was also convicted of plagiarism for planning to feature Naked in a retrospective of Koons’s work that Thomas Crow reviewed in the September 2014 issue of Artforum. (Crow’s take addressed the show as it was staged at the Whitney Museum, before it traveled to the Pompidou that November). The work, however, was ultimately not displayed at the Pompidou because it was damaged during transport.

Bauret, who died in January 2014, was a pioneer of nude portrait photography. After taking Enfants, he turned the photo into a postcard in 1975. His widow, Claude Bauret-Allard, told the French magazine Télérama in January that she was surprised by the similarities between the two works and that Koons added the bouquet to his reproduction in order to sexualize the image.

Koons and the Centre Pompidou have to pay $20,000 directly to the artist’s heirs, $20,000 to cover legal fees, and another $6,000 to the family for reproducing the image on his website. A copy of Koons’s three-foot porcelain sculpture sold for $8 million in 2008.