Artist Feuds with London Art Startup Over ‘Unauthorized’ Prints

by Jillian Steinhauer on January 23, 2014

Art:i:curate's "prints" of Luke Turner's “The Ontic Order (II)” (via

Art:i:curate’s “prints” of Luke Turner’s “The Ontic Order (II)” (via

Ah, the promise of a new online art platform. So young, so fresh, so full of ideas about the future. And yet, so muddled about the present as to take an artist’s work and make prints of it without permission.

The platform is called Art:i:curate. Launched in London last year by two women named Irina Turcan and Nur Elektra El Shami, it’s a familiar-looking of the moment art site/network/startup, premised on members “building your personal collection, following artists, and sharing the art you like.” The organization also plans events and exhibitions based on those selections. Art:i:curate’s existence is predicated on the notion that everyone’s a curator: “The conception of ‘curating’ no longer belongs exclusively to the art world. Together we want to redefine the meaning of ‘curation’.”

But artist Luke Turner claims that Art:i:curate ripped him off by making and selling illegal prints of his work. He’s created a website specifically devoted to outlining what happened and “exposing” the company. Essentially, Turner joined the platform in March 2013. In June, he received a request from the founders to use the image of one of his artworks, “The Ontic Order (II),” on a set of postcards. He assented but became suspicious when they asked him for a 7012-pixel file, which he noted is “in fact, exactly the size needed to make an A2 print.” He inquired about this discrepancy but they reassured him the image was just for a postcard. Turner sent a 3000-pixel file. Then, in November of last year, he received an email from someone who had backed Art:i:curate on Kickstarter and, as a reward, received a “print” of Turner’s “The Ontic Order (II).” Such prints, the artist says, were made illegally by Art:i:curate from the 3000-pixel file he had sent for postcards. (The Kickstarter campaign was successfully funded at £15,500 — roughly $26,000.)

Turner has also published the related email correspondences, which seem to support his claims. The Kickstarter campaign itself describes the reward, which does not name Turner but at the £75 level offers a “Special edition A2 ART PRINT” (emphasis theirs). The backer forwarded Turner the email he received from Art:i:curate, and it quite clearly states that he’s receiving an “A2 print … artwork.” El Shami’s response to Turner on this is fairly unconvincing; she attempts to position the Kickstarter prints as simple promotional materials:

2. The print you are in posession of is not a “A2 limited edition print”. It does not have numbering.

3. Our company produces printed materials of all types and sizes for promotional purposes.

4. It is our mandate to promote the work of artists on our platform, including yours, by the consignment agreement you signed with us, in June 2013.

Hyperallergic reached out to Art:i:curate for comment on the matter. El Shami and Turcan asserted, via email, that their Kickstarter campaign precedes their agreement with Turner:

art:i:curate raised funds to organise exhibitions featuring over 25 artists through the support and donations of its friends, family and immediate network through Kickstarter in April 2013, 2 months before any communication and collaboration with Mr. Turner started. Mr. Turner’s work was neither known to us at the time, nor mentioned on Kickstarter.

Turner claims he signed on with them in March. Either way, the rewards of a Kickstarter campaign are necessarily sent out after the fundraising goal has been reached — their page specified an estimated delivery date of June 2013 for the reward level in question.

El Shami and Turcan continued:

art:i:curate and Mr. Turner agreed in June to create cards to promote the artist and his work. Due to unfortunate staff misunderstandings, a mistake occurred and once it came to our attention, we acknowledged the mistake and the artist’s concerns, apologised and returned the prints.

It seems possible that because El Shami and Turcan don’t have art backgrounds, they didn’t realize the scale of the error they were committing; maybe they genuinely thought that an artist’s image printed “on heavyweight fine art type paper” (Turner’s words) and stamped with a copyright line counts as promotional material. This is the slippery slope, one thinks, of making art “more democratic and accessible than ever before.”

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  • Hector Gonzales


    • Monsoonking

      If they had used a gradient without the artist’s name then you could have an interesting debate about public domain and appropriated images, but by using the artist’s name they’re making the explicit or implicit claim that the artist authorized the edition.

      This doesn’t strike me as a huge scandal, but hijacking one of your artist’s images is probably an inauspicious way to launch a business that relies on cooperation and partnership.

    • Zach Alan

      especially when you stole the gradient idea from someone else

      • Luke Turner

        Not quite Zach. Cory’s gradients are (IMO) about defaultism, apathy, banality and an absence of depth. My own works resolutely pursue the precise opposite. That these pieces coexist is partly the point.

        • Hector Gonzales

          Get over yourself. This is the banal bullshit that makes me hate the art world with every fabric of my being.
          Why does every color and sequin donned object need to have a deeply philosophical reason for its existence? What happened to creating fantastical worlds and then doing everything to immerse the viewer in that?
          I don’t blame you, I blame your parents for encouraging you. I blame art schools for being for-profit. I blame art buyers for encouraging artist statements that sound like they came from the artist statement generator machine and I blame post-post modernists for attaching value to it.

          • Luke Turner

            I’d like to think we each do our bit to create the fantastical world we are all immersed in. As for art, in seeing only banality where joy and insight is intended, I feel you may be missing out.

    • drewworthley

      Thanks for the ALL CAPS. My small eyes struggle both with composed sentiment and lower case prose.

      Also, if the piece is nothing but a preset gradient, it kinda begs the question why art:i:curate would be marketing it in the first place. I guess they reckon it to be original art…? Just a thought.

  • Fred

    The funny thing about this is that it is actually Luke Turner who faked his own artwork, taking it from a photoshop gradient (see link below). When you have no choice to get attentiom than to go on a campaign of defamation, then there must be something wrong with you…

    By the way Luke – I posted this comment on your blog and you deleted it a few times… the same way I imagine that the correspondence you reported and your version of facts may be partial and making you appear as a victim of a big corporation… hope you are enjoying your 15 minutes of fame. Who knows, you may even land a job at photoshop one day.

    • Luke Turner

      Thank you for your comment Fred. And thank you also for setting up a Twitter account apparently for the sole purpose of defaming me. I can only think that you must be one of Art.I.Curate’s minions, or simply a troll.

      I have not deleted any previous comments from you on my blog (you have not submitted any, as far as I’m aware), but I am certainly likely to not approve any subsequent slanderous comments from you, given your apparent intentions.

      For what it’s worth, you appear neither to understand my work, nor what it means to fake a piece of art — especially since I believe mine and Cory’s works were conceived at around the same time, and have quite opposite theoretical intents.

      Also, it’s no secret that I used to do work for both Adobe and Macromedia back in my ’90s web days. So, it looks like the joke’s on you.

      [Edit: Twitter have now suspended Fred’s account due to the abusive nature of the tweets he directed at me: ]

      • tony

        Interesting. Anyway, don´t you think your (public) thoughts on this situation should at least comment on the fact that your art let´s say deals with originality and copyright issues? I mean “originality” as you know the general contemporary art theme. But in particular, I may say, your work is about presenting a common, predefined logarithmic operation enmarqued in (and thus contrasted with) “aluminium in artist’s frame with anti-reflective glass”, plus selling it at what i assume is a high price (“My current prices are xxxxx per art print, and you have been selling these reproductions as part of a package priced at between £75 and £1000, which damages the future value of my artworks”). The thing is, I´ve read your whole website. And was emphatic with your situation. But then I see your work. And then I see what you write here. And I see that when the first comment that says your artwork should also be considered a fake comes, you answer you´re being “defamed” and that you will ban this guy from posting in your blog, instead of debating. So, I understand you´re only interested with your copyright, your fame and the price value of your work. And then I can´t help but to dislike what you say are your “theoretical intents”, as I see they can´t be but getting yourself into the same system whose practices you condemn. You know, I´m from South America, but I have the idea that this is a major problem in most of Europe´s art schools: that´s what you learn. Am I wrong?. Furthermore, in your email exchange you requested the name of all the kickstarter backers so you could contact them, see if they had prints of your work, etc. And let me ask, how come you didn´t ask for the list of other artists, so you could alert them of the situation? Now you put a website and you say “I would also suggest trying to contact the other Artists”. That shows a lot of solidarity in yourself, I guess you´re really, really busy minding your own “theoretical intents”. Look, I think you should sue art:i:curate and everything. And I don´t mean to defame you. I just want to put your great “justice cause” in context and continue what you say is the idea of your website: to “contribute to the the much-needed discussion about the exploitation of artists, curators and interns in the art world”. So here´s my contribution: why don´t you start making art, and personal actions, that make a positive contribution to counter-offense that world of exploitation?

        • Luke Turner

          Tony, please see my reply to the same comment you posted on my blog. I can only hope that I am making a positive contribution.

        • Jane Ludo

          Surely regardless of the work and whether it is a ‘theoretical intent’ or something else, nobody should reproduce it without the artist’s permission?
          An artist should not be told what art to create by you, me or anyone else nor should he/she become an activist just to have the right to not have someone else reproduce it without permission

      • Fred

        And that’s a confirmation of your real intents – someone unveils you, and you ask twitter to suspend them. Fortunately there’s other people that are close to the startup world and think independently. For every action there’s a commensurate reaction. Your reaction, again, is disproportionate and hard to justify. Good luck

        • Luke Turner

          I’m an open book, Fred. Nothing to unveil here. Art.I.Curate’s continued lies is the only point at issue, I think you’ll find. Trying to sully my good name by setting up a twitter account, adding all my followers, then making malicious tweets about me, didn’t seem to go down too well with the artist community, did it? I believe it was them who ensured your abusive account was suspended.

        • Mark

          I think you will find that other people reported the twitter trolling. Like myself. Mainly because it was abusive, but also an irritating distraction from the main point; that a ‘business’ like art:i:curate feels that their endeavours warrant blatant exploitation.

          The art work itself is irrelevant (authorship is such a rich subject in regards to art history, new or old), as they felt that the work was worthy of ripping off. The point being is that artists spend a lifetime developing work at their own expense. And of course publicity is a great opportunity. But publicity gained through this is not advantageous.

          I feel that subjective views of the artwork are futile. It seems that Luke Turner was let down by the pretend philanthropy wrapped in a business model conceived by a dilettante.

      • Jane Ludo

        Courage to you Luke – it is all too easy to defame via Social Media but anyone who looks at the arguments in your very well documented WP site can see what is blatantly obvious. I shared the article with an art lawyer friend of mine and his opinion was that, on the surface, it appeared to be a clear case of copyright infringement (not unusual due to many people misunderstanding the copyright artists / makers have in the era of electronic communications)

        I do think there i also a general lack of understanding of what editioning is (issuing proper limited editions endorsed by an artist/maker) vs. just printing copies of an electronic file…

  • nice post

  • J Rives

    rafael rozendaal???

  • Fred

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