In the early 2000s, the graffiti tag of late artist Dash Snow could be seen spray-painted on the Brooklyn Bridge, the High Line (pre-parkification), and other ambitious spots in New York City. Now, seven years after Snow’s death at age 27, a knockoff of the tag, “SACE,” has popped up in various graffiti-themed McDonald’s restaurants in the US and the UK. Jade Berreau, the artist’s former girlfriend and executor of his estate, says McDonald’s copied Snow’s graffiti without permission. She’s suing the fast-food chain for “copyright infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition, falsification of ‘copyright management information’ under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and negligence,” the Fashion Law reports.
Hyperallergic obtained a copy of Berreau’s complaint, in which she states:
Defendants are using Mr. Snow’s artwork as décor in hundreds of McDonald’s restaurants, and are using his name and signature in a manner suggesting that Mr. Snow created all of the surrounding artwork (which adorns the entirety of McDonald’s graffiti-themed restaurants) … [including] a stylized signature of his pseudonym ‘SACE,’ which clearly includes a brazen copy of Mr. Snow’s work.
An Upper East Side scion of the famous de Menil family, Snow got his start as part of the graffiti crew IRAK in the 1990s. In a memorial essay, fellow artist Ryan McGinley dubbed him “number one on the vandal-squad’s most wanted list.” Snow’s photographs — some of which picture oral sex and cocaine being snorted off body parts — were included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Soon after, the Wall Street Journal labeled him a young “master.” The complaint suggests that McDonald’s appropriation of his work is an ironic insult to Snow’s legacy as an “outsider” with “street cred.”
“He has never made his original art available on the internet, in retail stores, or in restaurants—partly for artistic reasons but also because doing so would diminish the value of his work,” the lawsuit continues. “Nothing is more antithetical to Mr. Snow’s outsider ‘street cred’ than association with corporate consumerism—of which McDonald’s and its marketing are the epitome.”