Wed, Dec 04, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Court bars plan to cut up artwork to make watches

The Guardian, MALMO, Sweden

Danish artist Tal R has won an injunction against a pair of Faroese art provocateurs who wanted to cut up one of his paintings and use the canvas to make decorative faces for their line of designer wristwatches.

Dann Thorleifsson and Arne Leivsgard, who five years ago founded watch company Kankse, had purchased Paris Chic, one of Tal R’s brightly colored Sexshops series, for £70,000 (US$90,734) at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London in August.

Copenhagen’s maritime and commercial court ruled in favour of Tal R, forbidding the duo from going ahead with their project and ordering them to pay 31,550 kroner (US$4,678) in legal costs, arguing that as the scheme was an alternation rather than a destruction of the work, it contravened copyright law.

The project misused Tal R’s artistic standing for commercial gain and threatened to damage his reputation, the court said.

The artist’s lawyer, Jorgen Permin, said after the verdict that he was “very pleased with the very clear decision.”

“We hope it will mark the end of this case and that it will mean that Tal R and his fellow artists may avoid similar disputes in the future,” Permin said.

On Monday, Thorleifsson and Leivsgard were still discussing with their lawyer whether to reach a settlement, appeal the injunction, or to push ahead with a full-court case next month.

“It’s not the best verdict for us,” Thorleifsson said. “There had been a lot of examples discussed in court, but they painted it as very black and white.”

In October, the pair revealed plans to use Tal R’s canvas as raw material to manufacture between 200 and 300 watches for Letho, their new brand, which they aimed to sell for at least 10,000 kroner each.

“We needed an artist that was esteemed by experts because we also needed to get a reaction,” Thorleifsson said.

“If we just took a $100 canvas, no one would really care. It needed to be a true masterpiece,” he said.

Thorleifsson and Leivsgard, who also run a Copenhagen based design studio, have purchased paintings by three other recognized Danish artists, John Korner, David Birkemose and Jens Birkemose, assisted by funding from an unnamed patron.

In October Tal R dismissed the pair’s plan calling it a “disrespectful” attempt “to make money and get attention by making a product out of my art.”

“He acknowledges that whoever purchases one of his works would be at liberty to sell it on or even destroy the work, but what he is not obliged to accept is for someone to alter the work and then reintroduce it to the public domain, and particularly not for commercial reasons,” his lawyer said.

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