Artist Jeff Koons and Centre Pompidou convicted in plagiarism case

Artist Jeff Koons poses next to his piece "Balloon Dog (Red)" on May 11, 2012 in Basel, Switzerland.
Artist Jeff Koons poses next to his piece "Balloon Dog (Red)" on May 11, 2012 in Basel, Switzerland. AFP/Fabrice Coffrini

A French court ruled on Thursday that the American artist’s sculpture Naked, 1988, plagiarised Frenchman Jean-François Bauret’s 1975 photograph, Enfants.


Jeff Koons LLC, the artist’s limited liability company, along with the Parisian modern and contemporary art museum Centre Pompidou, have been ordered to pay 40,000 euros to the photograph’s right holders. Half of this sum is intended to cover the Bauret family’s legal fees.

The museum was found guilty of copyright infringement for having included images of the sculpture in books and other publications that it sold during a Koons retrospective that ran there from November 2014 to April 2015.

While the sculpture was not actually on display during the retrospective – because it had allegedly been damaged during transport – the ruling found that the museum's distribution of photos of the plagiarised piece via its publications was grounds for prosecution.

Jeff Koons LLC will have to pay an additional 4,000 euros to the Bauret family for having published an image of the plagiarised sculpture on his website.

The court found that the slight variations Koons brought to his one-metre tall porcelain sculpture “do not prevent one from recognising and identifying the models and the pose” seen in the photograph Enfants.

In the original black and white photo, a young boy and a young girl, naked, can be seen holding hands.

Koons’s sculpture portrays a young boy and a young girl, both naked, with the same haircuts and in nearly identical body positions as the children in Enfants.

For Naked the American artist added a bouquet in the boy’s hand, and flowers at the children’s’ feet, but the changes weren’t substantial enough to convince the court that the work did not constitute plagiarism.

Koons has been sued several times for copyright infringement.

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