There has been some buzz about a situation involving a young British graffiti artist and Damien Hirst. Apparently the young artist, known as Cartrain, took a lesson from Banksy’s playbook-- he displayed one of his collages in the National Portrait Gallery under the nose of security and staff. So where does Damien Hirst come into play you ask? The collages by Cartrain, which the artist has sold as prints, involve a parody of Hirst’s ‘For the Love of God’. It seems that Hirst was not thrilled to discover that a young graffiti artist had profited from prints involving his copyright protected works.
The Design and Artists Copyright Society, of which Damien Hirst is a member, contacted Cartrain after receiving direct instructions from Hirst. The society informed the young artist that he had broken the law by infringing upon Hirst’s copyright. Hirst’s demands were clear-- he demanded the original works and the halt of sales with the threat of legal action. Hirst also demanded the profit that Cartrain had made from selling his collages and prints. Four works were confiscated by DACS from Cartrain’s gallery on November 12th. Reports state that Cartrain only earned about £200 from sales of the work.
People are defending the work of Cartrain by stating that appropriation is not theft. However, appropriation can be considered theft if the work is protected by copyright. It really boils down to a fine line decided by judge or jury. True, art schools and law have very different opinions about the implications of appropriation. In the case of Hirst’s work-- which is known worldwide-- one could make a case for parody within the protections of appropriation.
Damien Hirst is not the only internationally renowned artist waving the legal stick around these days. Shepard Fairey, the visual spearhead behind Barack Obama’s campaign, recently stated that he will take legal action against “bootleggers” who have “hijacked” his “style”. That said, I find it ironic that Damien Hirst would be upset over someone infringing upon his copyright considering that he has infringed upon the copyright of others. Damien Hirst and Shepard Fairey have two things in common-- they have both settled out of court due to infringing on the copyright of others and they have both threatened legal action against artists who have violated their protected works. The saying, “you reap what you sow”, comes to mind. Did I mention that Cartrain is 16 years old? ‘For the Love of God’-- Indeed.
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Take care, Stay true,