This was not the first time Jeff Koons has been accused of plagiarism. In 2014, his work Fait d’hiver was said to have been copied from an advertisement for Naf Naf, which showed a young woman lying in the snow next to a pig (see Jeff Koons Accused of Plagiarism). Several days later, in early January 2015, the wife of French photographer Jean-François Bauret lodged a similar complaint.
She had discovered Koons’ sculpture Naked, which shows two nude children, heads lowered, one holding flowers in his hand. She was struck by the similarity of this work to a photograph taken by her deceased husband, in which two young naked children are seen looking down. The only difference is that rather than holding flowers, they hold each other’s hand.
When the affair broke, the president of the Centre Pompidou, Alain Seban, defended Koons, claiming artists had the right to cite other works, and explaining that this was even part of the history of art. “A large part of modern and contemporary creation relies on the concept of citation”, he explained. The Centre Pompidou was dragged into the affair as it was organizing a retrospective of the artist at the time. At the last moment the museum decided not to exhibit the sculpture, under the pretext that it had been damaged during transport. However, it was nonetheless still present in the exhibition catalogue.
Paris’s local court gave its verdict on 9 March, in which Jeff Koons LLC (Koons’ company) and the Centre Pompidou were pronounced guilty of plagiarism. Artist and museum must pay 20,000 euros each to the widow of the photographer. Half of the sum will be used to cover the expenses of the case. Jeff Koons LLC will pay an extra €4000 for having included a photograph of the sculpture on its official site. Such a sum is a drop in the ocean to Koons, who, in 2016, was still the most expensive artist in the world.