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Kader Attia Faces Backlash After Accusing French Rappers of Plagiarism

Kader Attia, the French artist who recently opened a tri-level exhibition and events space in Paris and was awarded the 2016 Marcel Duchamp Prize, has accused two young French rappers of plagiarism. According to Attia, the silver foil survival blankets worn by the dancers in Dosseh and Nekfeu's music video infringes on his 2007 artwork, Ghost, a large installation of faceless kneeling figures shrouded in aluminum foil (now in the collection of the Pompidou Center.)

Among others, South African artist Kendell Geers has come to the defense of the two rappers. In an open letter to Attia, published by a blog belonging to Le Monde, Geers evokes famous art world appropriators and asks whether Attia “Would...have the books of Burroughs, Debord and Lautréamont also removed from the library shelves? [And]...empty out the museums of every work by Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Sherrie Levine?”

Describing plagiarism accusations as a slippery slope, Greer writes: “If I were you, I would take it as a huge compliment that young French artists have decided to cut your work up into their online video.”

In response, Kader Attia commented: “As artists, we have to defend ourselves against unauthorized commercial uses of our artworks. We are constantly plagiarized by the music industry, or in advertisement, or fashion. Nobody has asked for my permission to reproduce the artwork Ghost in this video...Regarding Kendell Geers, I am appalled to see he had to resort to such low blows to draw attention to him.”

Attia told that he is filing a lawsuit against Universal Music. He said, “I won’t be scared off by nasty comments...I will fight the exploitation of my work.”