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Installation view of Lygia Pape’s “Ttéia 1, C” (1976–2004) at the Met Breuer (photo by Bia Wouk)

Paula Pape, the daughter of the late Brazilian artist Lygia Pape — whose retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum closed on Sunday — is suing the Korean electronics giant LG alleging that the company had created a knockoff of her mother’s iconic installation “Ttéia 1, C” (1976–2004) to promote a new smartphone.

According to the copyright infringement suit, filed in New York’s Southern District Court on June 29, LG had approached Pape to use her mother’s work — a luminous installation of copper wires strung from floor to ceiling in various diagonal configurations — in the promotion of its LG K20 V phone. When Pape, who runs the estate that promotes her mother and her work, refused, LG created a replica and used it in promotional materials and as the default backdrop of the new phone.

“Following [Pape]’s repeated rejections of their requests to use [“Ttéia”], [LG] infringed upon [Pape]’s rights by featuring a derivative image created from [“Ttéia”] in the consumer packaging, advertising, and promotions for their mobile phone, the LG K20 V, without [Pape]’s knowledge, and in direct defiance of [her] explicit and repeated denials of consent,” the complaint states. “That [Lygia Pape]’s sublime and beautiful artwork is being used by [LG] to flog the latest version of LG’s mass market smartphones is both an egregious violation of federal law and an affront to the artist, her legacy, and to artists everywhere.”

The LG K20 V, with the derivative image based on Lygia Pape’s “Ttéia 1, C” (1976–2004), on LG’s website (screenshot by the author)

Taken out of context, a comparison of Pape’s installation and the LG K20 V’s backdrop image in promotional materials might not arouse suspicion. However, knowing that the company sought permission to the use images of the artwork and created its own when it was not granted makes the alleged infringement all the more egregious. Worse still, according to Pape’s lawsuit, after she refused LG’s request for permission to use an image of the artwork, the company made its own wallpaper image based on “Ttéia” and requested her permission to use its derivative version, which she also denied, reiterating “that a license would not be granted under any circumstances.”

Pape is seeking damages, the recalling and destruction of all packaging, promotional materials, and images featuring LG’s derivative version of “Ttéia,” and to be informed of who created the derivative version, among other relief to make up for the “irreparable injury that cannot be fully compensated by or measured in money damages.” Her lawsuit — which also names as defendants several service providers including Verizon and T-Mobile, as well as Getty Images Korea, which counseled LG in its repeated attempts to secure image permissions — calls for a juried trial. LG has not replied to Hyperallergic’s inquiries.

Copyright infringement cases involving art range from the blatant to the extremely opaque — just ask Patrick Cariou. But in this instance, LG’s repeated attempts to obtain permission to use versions of Pape’s work and persistence in using them after permission was not granted, if true, do not bode well for the company’s prospects at trial.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...