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Video still from Kendrick Lamar’s “All The Stars” video (screenshot via Vevo)

Earlier this month, in the lead-up to the highly anticipated release of Black Panther, Kendrick Lamar released a single from the film’s soundtrack. But when Lamar’s “All The Stars” music video was posted, British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor noticed that one of the backdrops looked a lot like her artwork — specifically, works for which the makers of Black Panther had requested permission months before, according to the New York Times‘ Robin Pogrebin.

Pogrebin writes that the artist’s lawyer sent a letter to Anthony Tiffith, Lamar’s mentor and the head of Top Dawg Entertainment, alleging a copyright violation of her “Constellations” series. The paintings, featuring geometric shapes of gold and black, bear an uncanny resemblance to a backdrop used in Lamar’s new video. According to the letter, the movie’s creators twice contacted Viktor about using her work, but after a series of negotiations, she ultimately backed out.

Lina Iris Viktor, “Constellations I,” 2016. Pure 24K gold, acrylic, gouache, and print on matte canvas, 60 x 84 in (photo courtesy Mariane Ibrahim Gallery)

“Why would they do this? It’s an ethical issue, because what the whole film purports is that it’s about black empowerment, African excellence — that’s the whole concept of the story,” Viktor told the New York Times. “And at the same time they’re stealing from African artists.”

A New York- and London-based painter, conceptual, and performance artist, Viktor describes her work on her website as fusing “apparent contradictions, synchronizing the monumental and the minuscule, decadent and the minimal, the spectacular and the invisible, seeking to heighten the experience of the spectator by creating immersive environments that transport the viewer into other worlds.” She often uses 24-karat gold in her pieces, and her solo show at Amar Gallery in London just last year included her “Constellation” paintings. Her work will also feature in the Crocker Art Museum’s Hopes Springing High exhibition, which opens this weekend in Sacramento.

At the moment, it appears that all Viktor wants from Lamar’s production team is a public apology. (Her lawyer didn’t respond to Hyperallergic’s requests for comment.) Moviegoers can find out this weekend whether the contested artworks appear in the film itself.

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Elena Goukassian

Elena Goukassian is an arts writer based in Brooklyn. Originally from Bulgaria, she grew up in Washington state and lived in Washington, DC before moving to New York in 2017. Her writing has also appeared...

One reply on “Artist Says Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther Music Video Uses Her Paintings Without Permission”

  1. Once again fine artists are being ripped off by the commercial art world/sector with absolutely no credit or financial compensation. This has been going on for years and needs to stop. Inspiration is one thing but a rip-off or near rip-off is something else entirely. Hiring a creative to “copy” or duplicate the artist’s style is really low.There are many reasons why artists cannot enter into such agreements with Hollywood, advertising and more. It might not be the right point in their careers, or the meaning, significance and intent of their work doesn’t suit such a project in their view. Add to that the millions these films bring in, one would think the compensation would be on par and fair. Another Hollywood rip-off that comes to mind was of National Cathedral sculptor Frederick Hart’s work that was altered cinematically in the film The Devil’s Advocate. He won a lawsuit in 1998. AT&T ripped off Christo’s “Gates” for a television advertisement. Christo had to demand a disclaimer on the running ad. There are others.

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