Fait d'hiver and the alleged plagiarism of Jeff Koons


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Fait d'hiver and the alleged plagiarism of Jeff Koons in response to Centre Pompidou, Paris
2015, reinforced terrazzo concrete (detail)
The Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou is the contemporary art centre in Paris. Peering from afar through the Parisian streets this colourful high-tech building looms up. It makes a festive contrast to the classical houses. The big poster hangs in the square: Jeff Koons, a retrospective. The Koons exhibition shows very well why the work is so much more special than that of many other artists. Artists who came just once into the top art circuit could devote more time to getting a perfect finish. It has more quality. Jeff chooses accessible subjects. Joy, balloons, love, sex and cartoon characters. I read later in a newspaper article that a porcelain sculpture from the ‘Banality’ series was removed from the exhibition because of plagiarism. The 1988 sculpture is a representation of a woman lying in the snow with her hands by her head. Behind, above her head, is a pig with a barrel around his neck. The title of the work is ‘Fait d'hiver'. My wife, Evelien, fetches some old French magazines from 1985 out of the attic; '100 ideas.‘ The Naf Naf advertisement, about which Jeff Koons is accused of plagiarism, appears on a double page. The French advertiser, Franck Davidovici says that Koons would have stolen his idea because his picture is the same as the 'scene' in the advertisement. That Koons’ sculpture also refers to the same idea, can be deduced not only by the attitude, appearance and hairstyle of the woman but also by the title, ‘Fait d’hiver’. It does not literally translate the fact that it is winter or becoming winter (with Naf Naf fashions) but it is also a pun on ‘fait divers’, which means an everyday news item. Still, you may wonder whether this use of the photo, with caption, is plagiarism. The black and white picture is undoubtedly a reference to the porcelain image, but Koons has added more than colour. There are also penguins, a garland hangs around the neck of the pig instead of a chain, the woman has no gloves, almost bare breasts, glasses, and flowers in her hair. It is about the context: a fashion advertising photograph has no relation with a porcelain statue from a Banality series. There is no competition. I will make the piglet an adult pigfor the ‘Visualising Museums’ series.
Photo 2:Fait d’hiver, Naf Naf advertising 1985, 100 Idees magazine
Photo 3:Fait d’hiver Jeff Koons 1989