A second sculpture by Jeff Koons is conspicuously absent from his retrospective at the Centre Pompidou after a photographer’s widow complained to the art star and the museum’s administration that “Naked” (1988) constituted copyright infringement. According to Claude Bauret-Allard, the sculpture is directly inspired by a nude photo portrait of a young boy and girl by her husband Jean-François Bauret, who died in January of this year.
Koons and the Pompidou have not responded to Bauret-Allard’s letter, but “Naked” is not on view in the exhibition, though wall text in the Pompidou galleries suggests it was intended to be. The work is included in the exhibition catalogue, and was showcased alongside other works in the Banality series during the show’s presentation at the Whitney Museum in New York. According to the Pompidou, the decision not to display “Naked” had nothing to do with the copyright infringement claim.
“We noticed that the sculpture was lightly damaged, presumably during transportation, and we decided not to show it,” a spokesperson for the Parisian museum told the Agence France-Presse.
“Naked” is the second sculpture in the Pompidou’s Koons retrospective to be the focus of copyright infringement claims. Earlier this month, Koons was sued by Franck Davidovici over the sculpture “Fait d’Hiver” (1988), which was subsequently removed from the exhibition.
“Similar questions have already been posed in the United States about other works in the Banality series, whose very principle is to take mass produced objects and images from the popular press as points of departure,” Pompidou president Alain Seban told the AFP. “A large part of modern and contemporary art is based on the concept of citation, or even appropriation.”
These legal — and, supposedly, shipping — setbacks have in no way dampened French enthusiasm for Koons. According to another AFP report, the exhibition racked up more than 112,000 visitors in its first 17 days — or 6,638 per day — and is on track to become the Pompidou’s best-attended show ever, a distinction currently held by a Salvador Dalí exhibition last year.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.