French court upholds plagiarism ruling against Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons has often been accused of plagiarism (AFP Photo/Anthony WALLACE)

Paris (AFP) - A Paris appeals court has upheld an order for American pop artist Jeff Koons to pay damages after deeming that his sculpture "Naked" had plagiarised another artwork.

The court this week stood by a ruling two years ago that found the 1988 porcelain sculpture of two naked children had copied a photograph by French artist Jean-Francois Bauret, according to documents seen by AFP on Saturday.

It said the artist's company Jeff Koons LLC and the Pompidou Centre in Paris, where his work was due to be displayed, must together pay 20,000 euros ($22,000) to Bauret's family.

Jeff Koons LLC must pay another 4,000 euros to the family of the late photographer for using a picture of the sculpture, part of his "Banality" series, on his website.

Stephanie Legrand, the lawyer for Bauret's heirs, welcomed the ruling.

"The continued use of his image in France is banned by the court, which is a great success for my clients," she said. She also welcomed the court ruling confirming the responsibility of the Pompidou Centre.

Koons has often been accused of plagiarism, but he says he is merely an appropriation artist.

The "Naked" sculpture was due to have been displayed in a major Jeff Koons retrospective at the Pompidou contemporary art museum from November 2014 to April 2015.

It never actually went on show because it was damaged during transport but pictures of it were reproduced in advertising and in media reports.

The sculpture, which stands a little over one metre (three feet) high, depicts a little boy offering a bouquet of flowers to a young girl. A copy of the work sold for $8 million in 2008.

The court ruled that the sculpture was a copy of Bauret's photograph "Enfants" which was published in 1975 in the form of a postcard, and depicted two naked children in an identical pose.

In 2018 a Paris court said he had copied a 1980s advertisement for clothing chain Naf Naf for his 1988 "Fait d'Hiver" -- also part of the Banality Series -- which shows a pig standing over a woman lying on her back.