Eight New Claims of Plagiarism Against Damien HirstJuxtapoz // Thursday, 02 Sep 2010
International art star Damien Hirst has been accused of at least eight counts of plagiarism. While Hirst has previously faced accusations that works including his diamond skull came from the imagination of other artists, the new allegations include his "crucified sheep", medicine cabinets, spin paintings, spot paintings, installation of a ball on an air-jet, his anatomical figure and cancer cell images.
Today from the UK Guardian:
Charles Thomson, the artist and co-founder of the Stuckists, a group campaigning for traditional artistry, collated the number of plagiarism claims relating to Hirst's work for the latest issue of the Jackdaw art magazine.
He came up with 15 examples, with eight said to be new instances of plagiarism. The tally includes the medicine cabinets that Hirst first displayed in 1989, and its development in 1992 - a room-size installation called Pharmacy.
"Joseph Cornell displayed a cabinet with bottles on shelves called Pharmacy in 1943," said Thomson. Nor were Hirst's spin paintings or his installation of a ball on a jet of air original, he said, noting that both were done in the 1960s.
"Hirst puts himself forward as a great artist, but a lot of his work exists only because other artists have come up with original ideas which he has stolen," said Thomson. "Hirst is a plagiarist in a way that would be totally unacceptable in science or literature."
Aggrieved artists include John LeKay, a Briton who says he first thought of nailing a lamb's carcass to wood like a cross in 1987, only to see it reproduced by Hirst. Lekay previously claimed in 2007 that he had been producing jewel-encrusted skulls since 1993, before Hirst did so. Lori Precious, an American, says she first arranged butterfly wings into patterns to suggest stained-glass windows in 1994, years before Hirst.
Imitation may be flattery, but not when Hirst is taking both the financial and artistic credit for their ideas, say Lekay and Precious. LeKay has never sold anything above £3,500, while Hirst's set of three crucified sheep was a reported £5.7m. Precious's butterflies sold for £6,000 against Hirst's version for £4.7m.
While Hirst is one of Britain's richest men, LeKay cannot live off his art. Accusing Hirst of being dishonest about where he gets his ideas, he said: "He should just tell the truth."
Although LeKay recognises that artists have always found inspiration in each other, he says the great ones adapt ideas to create works with their own individual and original stamp.
He said: "Damien sees an idea, tweaks it a little bit, tries to make it more commercial. He's not like an artist inspired by looking inwards. He looks for ideas from other people. It's superficial. Put both [crucified sheep] together and … it's the same thing."
In the 1990s, they were friends and shared exhibitions, which is when Hirst may have seen his sheep. Since then, LeKay has become more interested in Buddhism than material wealth, so he does not plan to seek compensation.
Precious recalled her pain at seeing Hirst's butterflies in a newspaper: "My artist friends and collectors called to tell me they couldn't believe the similarities between Hirst's work and mine, and … at first I too thought it was my work."
Although the patterns are not identical, she said: "It's the same material (butterfly wings) and the same idea (recreations of stained-glass windows)."
Without the funds to pursue legal action, she no longer produces butterfly works.
It emerged in 2000 that Hirst agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to head off legal action for breach of copyright by the designer and makers of a £14.99 toy which bore a resemblance to his celebrated 20ft bronze sculpture, Hymn.
David Lee, the editor of the Jackdaw, says Hirst's compensation was an admission of guilt. "The fact he was willing to fork out the money is an indication that he knew he was plagiarising the guy's work."
Hirst declined to comment.