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Jeff Koons. Photo: Bengt Oberger/Wikipedia.

Jeff Koons and Pompidou Lose Appeal in Magazine Copyright Case

A French appeals court has upheld a 2018 Paris High Court ruling in favor of fashion photographer Franck Davidovici, who in 2014 accused Koons of plagiarizing a magazine ad he had designed. The 1985 ad, for French fashion brand Naf Naf, showed a girl lying prostrate on her back in the snow while a pig with a small barrel around its neck, St. Bernard style, nuzzled her hair. Koons’s 1988 sculpture Fait d’hiver depicted a similar scene, which differed in that the girl was more scantily clad, and that a pair of small penguins stood placidly next to the pig, appearing to observe the proceedings.

Davidovici became aware of the sculpture in 2014 after seeing it in an exhibition catalogue accompanying a Koons retrospective originating at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and traveling to the Center Pompidou, in Paris. He filed suit the following year, seeking $352,000 in damages and asking that the state impound the sculpture. The 2018 ruling awarded him $152,000, to be paid by Koons and the Pompidou, but did not order the sculpture’s seizure. The publisher of the exhibition catalogue was fined $2,400.

In denying the appeal of Koons and the Pompidou, the court additionally raised the amount of money due Davidovici, to roughly $231,000. The court also stipulated that if Koons or the Pompidou continued to display the work on either party’s website, the offender would have to pay Davidovici $700 per day for the privilege. The catalogue publisher saw its fine raised as well, to $17,000.

This is not Koon’s first plagiarism suit, or his first loss in an appeals court. In 2019, an appeals court upheld a 2017 ruling that his 1988 sculpture Banality copied a photograph by the late French photographer Jean-François Bauret.

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