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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Mwah, mwah! Kanye Kissing Kanye

Evolution of a Kanye Kiss
In the world of Kardashians and Kanyes, an interesting derivative works discussion is brewing. A dispute over a satirical Kanye image hit the headlines when Jen Lewis, an illustrator, reported her experience on BuzzFeed. Entitled, "I Photoshopped Kanye Kissing Himself And A Famous Artist Reportedly Made $100,000 Off It," Lewis explains how her satirical photoshopping of Kanye West turned into street art, which then turned into a $100k painting.

The story begins with Getty Photographer Jason Merritt taking a photo of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian kissing in 2015.  Lewis then posted on Instagram her image which swapped out Kim with Kayne.  The image then took Sydney, when, in March, an artist named Scott Marsh turned the photo into a street art mural, which went viral.

March, being an enterprising artist, offered, for the modest price of $100k, to buff the mural and send the buyer a buffed print of the street art. In the cool kids lingo, buff is the removal of street art, in this case using neutral paint. He also sold un-buffed versions for $40.  Last week, the mural was buffed, implying the $100k sale was successful, although the buyer remains anonymous.

Since the buffing of mural, another mural has popped up in its place of a Sydney radio celebrity.  As reported in BuzzFeed, Marsh bid to paint this second mural, but the commissioners went with a different, cheaper artist. This has left an indignant Marsh with a 'sour taste' in his mouth. However, the Internet, bastion of forgiveness, has quickly reminded Marsh that his mural is a copy of Lewis's work.

Who really owns these works?  The Lewis's Instagram and both murals are a string of derivative works starting with Meritt's photo. Kanye, whose entire life might be considered performance art, might have a different opinion. The story is reminiscent of the Shepard Fairey dispute regarding the Obama Hope poster.  In that case, Fairey, a street artist, created a stencil based on a photograph of Obama by AP photographer Mannie Garcia. Posters of the stencil were very popular and the AP sued. Eventually the parties settled (although Fairey was sentenced for destroying evidence.) (IPKat coverage here and here.)

This Kat, being a fan of the Alternative London street art tours which start near the Allen & Overy London office, is fascinated by the intellectual property practices of street art.  [Merpel prefers the term 'graffiti', but to each her own.] There is an interesting juxtaposition between the generally law-breaking act of street art and use of other people's physical property, and artist's expectation of intellectual property ownership and protection.

If $100k sale actually exists, there may be some interest in legal action.  The general sentiment echoes this quote from the AmeriKat on the Obama Hope case, "this is a case not of a copyright owner actively protecting their copyright from bona fide infringement but a copyright owner recognizing a commercial opportunity for the licensing of derivative works post facto the success of a particular work." It will be interesting to see what Merritt and Lewis do next.

Further IPKat coverage of street art here and here. Kayne previously on IPKat here.

4 comments:

DownWithTheKids said...

"March, being an enterprising artist, offered, for the modest price of $100k, to buff the mural and send the buyer a buffed print of the street art. In the cool kids lingo, buff is the removal of street art, in this case using neutral paint. He also sold un-buffed versions for $40."

I do not understand this paragraph. What is a buffed print, and how does it differ from an unbuffed print?

Nicola Searle said...

"Buffed print" is an image of the mural, but painted over with beige paint (buffed.) The un-buffed print is simply an image of a mural. Basically, you pay extra for the buffing.

http://www.hotnewhiphop.com/someone-paid-s100-000-to-have-the-mural-of-kanye-west-kissing-himself-buffed-news.21009.html?

There are also some more images in the linked BuzzFeed article.

Anonymous said...

So the $100k was basically a fee to have the mural scrubbed out? Sending a print of it was incidental?

Nicola Searle said...

Essentially! So it is either a wry comment on the commercial state of art, or the whole thing is a publicity stunt.

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