For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

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Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The lost potato fries case

And now for something completely different and shall we say rather obscure.... a German decision relating to an artist's rights in the original models that inspired his work of art: in this case two 22 year old potato fries.

According to German media reports in Die Welt and Der Spiegel, The Higher Regional Court of Munich (OLG München, case reference: 23 U 2198/11) last week held that the artist Stefan Bohnenberger should be awarded damages of 2000 Euro because his former art gallery had lost the 22 year old original potato fries on which Mr Bohnenberger had based his work "Pommes d’Or", a gold cross formed of potato fries (see to the right below, screenshot from Spiegel Online).

Mr Bohnenberger argued that the original potato fries as well as his actual work both were works of art. The Munich court however was reportedly somewhat reluctant to discuss the artistic value of the 22 year old potato fries and instead focused on their monetary value. In this context the court acknowledged that an art collector, who had acted as a witness in the court hearings in January 2012, had stated that she had offered Mr Bohnenberger 2500 Euro for the original fries which she said she had intended to buy from him.

In light of this witness account, the Higher Regional Court thus held that the gallery owners had breached the contract between artist and the gallery, more particularly they had failed their duty to store the fries (Aufbewahrungspflicht). The lower court, the Landgericht München I, had seen things slightly differently: its judges could not see any monetary damage and thus had agreed with the gallery owners that the original fries were not works of art so that the gallery did not have a duty to store them.

The artist had countered this with the argument: well, if they say the fries are not art, then why did they keep them in the first place? Der Spiegel wonders how this case ever ended up in court in the first place (yes, good point... muses Merpel) and hints this may be connected to the fact that the artist and the gallery owners had previously met in court when Mr Bohnenberger had sued the gallery to have his "Pommes d’Or" returned.

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