Is Maurizio Cattelan’s Latest Work a Copy?

On April 30, two exhibitions featuring metal sheets marred by torrents of gunfire went on display on opposite sides of Manhattan. In Midtown East, Opera Gallery unveiled British-American artist Anthony James’s Shots Fired, a show consisting of mirror-polished steel works dimpled with an array of bullet cavities he has been creating since 2011. That same evening, across town at Gagosian’s Chelsea location, Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan, debuted Sunday — a new large-scale installation involving 24-karat gold panels similarly pockmarked by bullets.

Now, James’s attorney has sent Cattelan a five-page missive arguing that the works in Sunday may have legal implications concerning the Copyright Act. Artnet first reported on the letter on May 8.

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In his communications to Cattelan, Scott Allan Burroughs (of the law firm Doniger / Burroughs, which advertises itself as “America’s top artists’ rights law firm”) claimed that the Sunday artworks could constitute a copyright violation, as the similarities between the artists’ works “relate to virtually all of the creative decisions apparently made in creating and fabricating the works.”

A spokesperson for Gagosian told Hyperallergic that “[James’s] claims have no merit.” In a New Yorker article, Cattelan is quoted as saying, “I’m very surprised. The resemblance is uncanny. All I can say is good luck to both of us.”

Hyperallergic has reached out to James and Burroughs for comment.

James explains on his website that his concept for the bullet series was inspired by the slashed paintings of Italian artist Lucio Fontana. “I wanted to puncture the steel with an effortless gesture and flow in a similar attempt to how Lucio Fontana would slice his canvas with a knife or puncture paper with a pencil,” James wrote, adding in a public statement he used Benelli shotguns and AR-15 assault rifles “to create beauty through a violent act.” 

Meanwhile, Cattelan’s works are described as a commentary on gun violence and economic inequality in the United States through their juxtaposition of precious metal and gunfire. 

This isn’t the first time Cattelan has been accused of copyright infringement in recent years. After announcing his retirement in 2011, the artist known for his provocative sense of humor and elaborate pranks reemerged to the art world eight years later with his infamously viral sculpture “Comedian” (2019), composed of a banana duct-taped to a wall. In 2021, California artist Joe Morford lodged a copyright complaint with Florida’s southern district court, alleging that the fruity wall sculpture that debuted at Miami’s Art Basel was a plagiarized version of his own original still life created two decades earlier, “Banana and Orange” (2001). Last June, a Miami federal judge ultimately ruled in Cattelan’s favor, determining that Morford had failed to prove that “Comedian” was a deliberate copy of his work; Cattelan claimed that he “had never heard of Joe Morford” or his work before reviewing the complaint.

Cattelan fended off another suit in 2022, when French sculptor Daniel Druet purported that he was the sole author of eight wax works the Italian artist commissioned him to create between 1999 and 2006. A Paris court ruled in favor of Maurizio because Druet had “[failed] to summon … the alleged author, in person,” by instead taking action against Cattelan’s representation, Perrotin gallery, and the museum Monnaie de Paris, which hosted an exhibition of Cattelan’s works without any reference to Druet in 2016.

Source: Hyperallergic.com

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