Jeff Koons has been sued several times before for appropriating images or using someone’s work without permission. Koons is a US pop artist whose works sell for millions and is exhibited internationally as well as in the collections of some of the world’s most noted celebrities.
In an article by The Guardian, it describes his latest lawsuit and that he is facing allegations that he used a photographer’s images from back in the 80’s without permission and without compensation to the artist. The photographer, Mitchel Gray, said the photo of a man and woman painting on the beach was, “nearly unchanged and in its entirety”.
Gray is seeking unspecified damages and any profits the defendants received from the suspected infringement. He said he also deserves punitive damages because the infringement was willful.
The 1980’s gin ad Koons used for his artwork sold for millions. His work Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $58.4m in 2013, the highest price for a living artist’s work sold at auction.
To get a better sense of the artist, read a Huffington Post article by Misha Pinkhasov who wrote about Koons’ works in the context of it being the link between luxury and degradation, more specifically, the word decadence meaning decay or self-degradation. Pinkhasov found it interesting how Koons applies the word degradation to his work. He also notes the long-standing love affair between art and luxury.
In the article, Pinkhasov wrote that Koons points out that art, in the form of advertising, discriminates or degrades the lower class by talking down to them with simpler symbolic terms than those addressed to the upper class. So, by Koons’ use of stainless steel in his work, a more utilitarian medium, he simultaneously degrades the objects with a less noble material than the original ceramic, silver or crystal, and yet elevates them from product to artwork in the process. Pinkhasov wrote that it exposes our hypocrisy in raising the value of something by stripping it of the workmanship and purpose it originally embodied.