Dylan accused of copying in gallery row

November 2011


Bob Dylan  has been accused of replicating several famous photographs in his new art show, The Asia Series, which includes paintings that seem like acrylic reproductions of images by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dmitri Kessel and Léon Busy. The exhibition, at the Gagosian Gallery in New York was described as a “visual journal of [Dylan’s] travels in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Korea”, with “first-hand depictions of people, street scenes, architecture and landscape”. But within days of opening, the New York Times reports, visitors began remarking on the paintings’ similarities to well-known photos although non were credited as sources. Fans on the Expecting Rain forum have pointed out that a Dylan painting called ”Opium” is almost identical to Léon Busy’s 1915 photograph “Indochine”. Other fans and bloggers have found paintings based on shots by Kessel and Cartier-Bresson. A fan called Okinawa Soba claims six of the Asia Series’ 18 paintings were copied from photos in his Flickr stream, even incorporating the Photoshop edits Soba made to the images. the gallery has now modified its description of the show. Instead of a “visual journal”, the Asia Series is now a “visual reflection” on Dylan’s travels.

A federal court in California recently found the central figure in Banksy’s street-art documentary entitled Exit Through the Gift Shop, Thiery Guetta, liable for copyright infringement. In a summary judgment the court found that Guetta (otherwise known as Mr. Brainwash) infringed upon plaintiff Glen Friedman’s copyright in his famous 1985 photograph of the hip hop music group Run-DMC. Guetta admitted downloading the Run-DMC photograph from the internet and creating four categories of artworks that incorporated aspects of the Friedman photograph, including combining an image of two of the three artists from the Photograph with a photograph of a 19th century couple, and for another work, entitled “Broken Records,” Guetta eliminated the Friedman’s background, leaving the image of the trio. He then projected the image onto a large piece of wood, painted on the wood, and glued 1,000 pieces of LPs onto the wood. In another series of works, Guetta made a stencil from a copy of the Photograph and spray painted the stencil image onto canvases with different backgrounds. His defence of fair use failed, as did a claim that he copied only the non-original elements of Friedman’s photograph.


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