Maurizio Cattelan Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Maurizio Cattelan case: contemporary art debated in court 2022

Who is the author of a work made up of a sculpture made by an artist, but conceived and directed and staged by another? The question was asked Friday at the Paris court, in the case between Daniel Druet and Maurizio Cattelan.

2 mins read

The court deliberated on July 8 its decision, in this trial which agitates the world of contemporary art.

The 61-year-old Italian is the subject of a copyright infringement complaint by French artist Daniel Druet, 80, who created strikingly realistic sculptures for him between 1999 and 2006.

Before the 3rd chamber, specializing in intellectual property, Mr. Druet’s lawyer pleaded the uniqueness of the creation of this artist recruited thanks to his achievements for the Grévin museum in Paris.

“Sculptors who sculpt like Daniel Druet, there are not five of them. (…) Daniel Druet was expensive and, despite that, we came to see him,” said Me Jean-Baptiste Bourgeois about his client, present in court.

“When we look at the work of these works, it is indisputable that we have an artistic expression”, while “Mr. Cattelan, by his own admission, is unable to sculpt, is unable to paint, is unable to draw”, he added.

The debates revolved mainly around one of the works of which Mr. Druet claims paternity, “Him” (2001), which represents an Adolf Hitler the size of a child, praying on his knees.

The Italian artist, who lives in New York, was absent. His lawyer, Me Éric Andrieu, denounced the “original sin” of a procedure where Mr. Cattelan was not initially cited, while the plaintiff requests his “expropriation”.

maurizio cattelan
”Him” (2001) by Maurizio Cattelan. Paris, 2016. Photo: Profimedia

“Mathematical precision”

“It’s completely extravagant”, he launched, asking to invalidate the procedure for defect of form. And on the merits, “the material realization of the work takes second place compared to its design”, according to Me Andrieu.

“Mr. Druet has a know-how (…) but this know-how does not give any creative choice because all he will do is follow instructions”, he further underlined.

Me Pierre-Olivier Sur, the lawyer for Mr. Cattelan’s gallery owner, Emmanuel Perrotin, insisted on the precision of the instructions of the Italian “conceptual” artist. Like when he indicates by how many millimeters the eyelids of a John Fitzgerald Kennedy represented in a coffin must be lowered (“Now”, 2004).

“Of course, the author is Cattelan. (…) Even if you don’t touch the material, as soon as you give instructions on the concept itself, you can be the author, and the sole author,” he said.

“It is a huge bad faith to indicate: he [Cattelan] was satisfied with photos. (…) These are instructions of mathematical precision”, added Me Sur.

“I think Mr. Cattelan can claim rights to the installation,” said Me Bourgeois. But Mr. Druet realized “this look which is terrible, that’s what scares”, and “had the fabrics made” which dress this Adolf Hitler.

The French sculptor claims the exclusive paternity of nine works by Mr. Cattelan, and compensation of four million euros.

Asked by AFP after the hearing, Mr. Druet said he was “overwhelmed by the media impact” of the case he launched.

This artist trained at the Beaux-Arts reiterated his claim to be the author of the sculptures. “They are mine. Everyone must stay in their place,” he said, rejecting the debate on the scenography: “It’s not my domain”.

© AFP 13.05.2022

Join Our Mailing List

[contact-form-7 id="9206" title="Sidebar Newsletter"]