In 1999, the artist Maurizio Cattelan reached a level of virality almost unthinkable in the pre-social media era when he exhibited a wax statue of Pope John Paul II struck by a meteorite.
Today, the creator and hand behind this work, as well as some of Cattelan’s other most popular pieces, a sculptor named Daniel Druet, claims he was stripped of his intellectual property by the wielding bananas star of the Perrotin Gallery.
In a new lawsuit, Druet alleges that nine of Cattelan’s best-known works are actually based on original wax models made by Druet. Galerie Perrotin says only four were: La Nona Ora, La Rivoluzione Siamo Noi, Him, and Untitled (or Petit Cattelan de Rotterdam). Druet is now seeking full authorship and acknowledgment from Cattelan and the gallery, in addition to financial compensation totaling millions, according to The worldwho broke the news last week.
Druet is aiming to become the “exclusive author” of Cattelan’s sculptures and is seeking nearly 5 million euros ($5.25 million) in damages for infringement of his intellectual property, according to the newspaper.
In addition, Druet is claiming damages from the Monnaie de Paris, a museum which organized a great retrospective of Cattelan’s work in 2016, claiming the museum was complicit in the appropriation without attribution of Druet’s original wax sculptures.
The lawsuit ultimately claims that Druet’s rights as author were violated because he was never named as the creator of the original designs and was instead described as a sub-contractor.
In a statement sent to Artnet News, Perrotin said Druet’s claims were unsubstantiated and threatened to disrupt the basic tenets of art making in the 21st century. The gallery, however, acknowledged that Druet had created many original molds and physical prototypes, but that the ideas and concepts were original to Cattelan.
“The question of concept art authorship is at the heart of the dispute between Maurizio Cattelan and Daniel Druet,” Perrotin said in the statement. “There is no doubt that the personality of Maurizio Cattelan exists in all his works through the creative choices he makes, the staging and the meaning found by each spectator.”
According to Pierre-Olivier Sur, lawyer for the Galerie Perrotin, “the century-old case law which currently governs the criteria for determining the authorship of a work is unsuited to conceptual art”.
While both parties admit that the terms of their collaboration were initially ill-defined (Druet called them “vague” for The world), the case promises to be a landmark when it comes to establishing the extent to which artists can outsource their work before others involved in the artistic process can challenge its intellectual property.
“We were naive,” Emmanuel Perrotin told the French newspaper, noting that Druet and Cattelan “didn’t talk about a contract.” He added that Cattelan had paid the sculptor for his work and had no financial arrears with Druet.
The case begins on May 13 in a chamber of the Paris court dedicated to intellectual property.
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