Damien Hirst and Copyright – yet again!

I discussed Damien Hirst, “the proprietor of a money-spinning novelty factory”, and copyright in a post by Down by the Dougie a couple of months ago.

I was interested in the latest post, therefore, by Lisa Thatcher about Hirst. This is a general review of his career and work. What particularly interested me though were the parts about breeches of copyright, both ways:

“[Hirst] curated the show Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away in 1994 at the Serpentine Gallery in London, where he exhibited Away from the Flock (a sheep in a tank of formaldehyde). On 9 May, Mark Bridger, a 35 year old artist from Oxford, walked in to the gallery and poured black ink into the tank, and retitled the work Black Sheep. He was subsequently prosecuted, at Hirst’s wish, and was given two years’ probation. The sculpture was restored at a cost of £1,000. When a photograph of Away from the Flock was reproduced in the 1997 book by Hirst I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one-to-one, always, forever, now, the vandalism was referenced by allowing the tank to be obscured by pulling a card, reproducing the effect of ink being poured into the tank; this resulted in Hirst being sued by Bridger for violating his copyright on Black Sheep.”

Later, Lisa says “In December 2008, Hirst contacted the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) demanding action be taken over works containing images of his skull sculpture For the Love of God made by a 16 year old graffiti artist, Cartrain, and sold on the internet gallery 100artworks.com. On the advice of his gallery, Cartrain handed over the artworks to DACS and forfeited the £200 he had made; he said, “I met Christian Zimmermann [from DACS] who told me Hirst personally ordered action on the matter.” In June 2009, copyright lawyer Paul Tackaberry compared the two images and said, “This is fairly non-contentious legally. Ask yourself, what portion of the original–and not just the quantity but also the quality–appears in the new work? If a ‘substantial portion’ of the ‘original’ appears in the new work, then that’s all you need for copyright infringement… Quantitatively about 80% of the skull is in the second image.”

“Cartrain walked into Tate Britain in July 2009 and removed a pack of “very rare Faber Castell 1990 Mongol 482 series pencils” from Damien Hirst’s pharmacy installation. Cartrain had then made a “fake” police appeal poster stating that the pencils had been “stolen” and that if anyone had any information they should call the police on the phone number advertised. Cartrain was arrested for £500,000 worth of theft.”

She then went on: “In 2000, Hirst was sued for breach of copyright over his sculpture, Hymn, which was a 20-foot (6.1 m), six ton, enlargement of his son Connor’s 14″ Young Scientist Anatomy Set, designed by Norman Emms, 10,000 of which are sold a year by Hull-based toy manufacturer Humbrol for £14.99 each. Hirst paid an undisclosed sum to two charities, Children Nationwide and the Toy Trust in an out-of-court settlement, as well as a “good will payment” to Emms. The charitable donation was less than Emms had hoped for. Hirst also agreed to restrictions on further reproductions of his sculpture.

“In 2006, a graphic artist and former research associate at the Royal College of Art, Robert Dixon, author of ‘Mathographics’, alleged that Hirst’s print Valium had “unmistakable similarities” to one of his own designs. Hirst’s manager contested this by explaining the origin of Hirst’s piece was from a book The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Geometry (1991)—not realising this was one place where Dixon’s design had been published.”

Finally, Lisa writes: “In 2010, in The Jackdaw, Charles Thomson said there were 15 cases where Hirst had plagiarised other work. Examples cited were Joseph Cornell who had created a similar piece to Hirst’sPharmacy in 1943; Lori Precious who had made stained-glass window effects from butterfly wings from 1994, a number of years before Hirst; and John LeKay who did a crucified sheep in 1987.Thomson said that Hirst’s spin paintings and installation of a ball on a jet of air were not original, since similar pieces had been made in the 1960s. A spokesperson for Hirst said the article was “poor journalism” and that Hirst would be making a “comprehensive” rebuttal of the claims.”

Incidentally, I haven’t reproduced any of Hirst’s work to illustrate this post. I don’t think it’s worth the risk!

About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website johnpindararts.weebly.com
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4 Responses to Damien Hirst and Copyright – yet again!

  1. Don’t get me started on Hirst!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Excellent blog.

  2. seascapesaus says:

    What fun! I like the sting in the tail of the story about the sheep.

  3. I know it’s unusual for me to defend Mr Hirst, but I often think the line in art between “plagarism” and “influence” is finer than most people think. My screenprinting style which has developed is based on blotch areas with a final photoscreen with the detail. It is only recently that I realised that this was the the method employed by Andy Warhol and his factory.

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