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.
“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.