Left: Orlan, "Bump Load" (2009), mixed media, 170 x 100 x 200 cm (via orlan.eu); right: cover image for Lady Gaga's "Born This Way"

Left: Orlan, “Bump Load” (2009), mixed media, 170 x 100 x 200 cm (via orlan.eu); right: cover image for Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’

Two years ago, French artist Orlan sued pop star Lady Gaga in French court for plagiarism over the singer’s cover art for her 2011 album Born this Way and the eponymous, award-winning music video. Now, Orlan is taking the case to New York City, seeking testimony from members of Lady Gaga’s creative team, over whom French courts do not have jurisdiction.

Orlan, photographed in 1997 (image via Wikipedia) (click to enlarge)

Orlan, photographed in 1997 (image via Wikipedia) (click to enlarge)

On Wednesday, lawyers representing Orlan filed documents — all publicly available — seeking subpoenas for fashion director Nicola Formichetti and makeup artist Billy Brasfield. The documents order the pair, both responsible for the visuals associated with the album, to appear at a district court on February 12. Known for undergoing multiple sessions of plastic surgery in the name of art, Orlan is claiming that Gaga ripped off two specific pieces, echoing the same alien-like aesthetic the French artist supposedly controls.

“In order to promote her album, Lady Gaga did not hesitate to plagiarize the entire ORLAN universe,” one document reads. “Indeed, the singer ‘Lady Gaga’ not only did not hesitate to copy ORLAN’s theme and aesthetics, but she also infringed upon several of the artist’s famous works without permission to do so.”

One of the works is “Bumpload” (1989), a sculpture of Orlan transformed into a mutant, which the French artist alleges Gaga simply replaced with her own face to create Born This Way‘s black-and-white cover. The second is “Woman with head” (1996), a still from a performance that shows Orlan’s decapitated head on a table. According to the legal reports, the especially suspect similarities that crop up in the “Born This Way” music video are a plexiglass base, four decapitated heads, Gaga’s blunt hair cut, and her forehead implants — “essential characteristics,” as per Orlan’s lawyers, from Orlan’s own artwork.

Left: Orlan, "Woman with Head" (1996), performance at ICA London (via orlan.eu); right: a screen shot from Lady Gaga's video for "Born This Way"

Left: Orlan, “Woman with Head” (1996), performance at ICA London (via orlan.eu); right: a screen shot from Lady Gaga’s video for “Born This Way”

The documents dismiss Gaga’s visual concept as “a servile copy” (zing!) — but perhaps the best nugget within the legalese is a description of Orlan as “an established artist who is now part of art history, as attested to by the presence of one of her works among the 100 20th century masterpieces in the Pompidou Museum.”

As penalty for the supposed infringement of work, Orlan’s team is asking for compensation amounting at least to the royalties or fees owed if Gaga had asked Orlan for permission — at least $31.5 million, from an estimate of at least $420 million in revenue generated by Gaga’s album, concert ticket, and merchandise sales. Orlan is also demanding a halt to the broadcast and marketing of the video as well as of items featuring the album cover.

For her part, Mother Monster seems unfazed, with her representative telling Page Six, “This is nothing but an attempt by the plaintiff to generate US press coverage around a meritless case that was filed in France several years ago.”

h/t Page Six

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

2 replies on “Artist Orlan Tries Again to Sue Lady Gaga for Plagiarism”

  1. wondering if “the On going COLETTE/GAGA SCANDAL ” ( beginning jan.2012-with the plagiarism of my work in the Barney’s windows”) inspired this law suit.? many ” in the know” seem to think so. Hypperallergic also covered my story…check Fb. community Page : Fight Art Plagiarism/Keep Posting the Original for more info on the topic.

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