Artist Luc Tuymans found guilty of plagiarism

Summary

Antwerp artist Luc Tuymans will appeal the decision of a local court, which found him guilty of plagiarism for his copy of a press photo

Should artist Luc Tuymans have been found guilty of plagiarism for copying a press photo as a painting?

Artist to appeal

Flemish artist Luc Tuymans (pictured) said he will appeal a judgement against him in a case of plagiarism brought by a photojournalist from De Standaard newspaper. An Antwerp court ruled this week that Tuymans had appropriated the intellectual property of photographer Katrijn Van Giel for his painting “A Belgian Politician”.

The 2011 work was based on a photo of politician Jean-Marie Dedecker taken by Van Giel for De Standaard a year earlier. The painting is a rendition in oil of the photo, showing the same unusual framing and particularities. Tuymans’ defence argued that the painting is a parody of the original and so not subject to copyright laws.

“The painting by Luc Tuymans is a representation of the press photo by Katrijn Van Giel, neither more nor less,” the court ruled. The court ordered Tuymans to refrain from making further copies of the work at the risk of being fined €500,000 per copy, the sum for which Tuymans sold the painting to an American couple in 2012.

The court rejected the parody defence, and Tuymans intends to appeal the decision. “As with many contemporary artists, each work by Luc Tuymans is based on an existing image,” his lawyer explained. The artist’s works include paintings based on photos of Condoleezza Rice and Patrice Lumumba, among others.

“How can an artist call the world into question with his art if he is not allowed to use images arising out of that world? This judgement forbids a particular form of contemporary art and removes the right of contemporary artists to express themselves,” Tuymans defence stated.

“It’s a pity Tuymans didn’t ask Van Giel’s permission to use her image as the basis for his own work,” responded Pol Deltour, national secretary of the Flemish Association of Journalists. “Photojournalists are under heavy pressure these days and are barely recompensed for the essential work they provide to the news process.”

Photo courtesy Marcwathieu/Wikimedia