Maurizio Cattelan Wins Copyright Lawsuit Over Banana Sculpture

A Miami federal judge ruled this week in favor of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who, for a few weeks in 2019, was the talk of the art world after his work Comedian, a banana duct-taped to a wall, sold at Art Basel Miami Beach for $120,000.

Joe Morford, an artist who claims he pioneered the act of duct tapping fruit to walls in 2000, has sued Cattelan, claiming that Cattelan based the work on his piece Orange and Banana, in which plastic versions of these fruits were affixed to panels on a wall with duct tape.

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US District Judge Robert Scola’s decision says there wasn’t enough evidence that Cattelan had seen Morford’s fruit composition. Regardless, the concept shared by the works, “affixing a banana to a vertical plane using duct tape,” isn’t protected under copyright law, according to Judge Scola.

Judge Scola noted the significant differences between the works, most importantly “the angle at which [the banana was] placed” and “the exacting standards that Cattelan developed for Comedian’s display.”

“To find otherwise would further limit the already finite number of ways in which a banana may be legally taped to a wall without infringing on Morford’s work,” Scola said of his decision.

Scola’s decision came several weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that Andy Warhol’s Prince Series infringed on the copyright held by the photographer Lynn Goldsmith, who took the image on which the Warhol’s Prince screenprint was based.

The Supreme Court’s decision leaves a dark cloud over the “fair use” doctrine, which many artists who have appropriated images in their work have frequently relied upon.


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