The latest art star to have his work implicated in a copyright case—after Jeff Koons and Richard Prince earlier this year—is naked hipster photographer Ryan McGinley, who’s been accused by fellow New York-based photographer Janine Gordon of stealing her imagery in both his art photos and in a series he did for Levi’s, whom Gordon is also suing.
Artnet’s Rachel Corbett reports that the suit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and argues that 150 works by McGinley, including several used in the jeans giant’s “Go Forth” campaign, take liberally from Gordon’s work. The alleged theft began nearly a decade ago, when both artists showed at the Whitney: Gordon in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, McGinley in his major 2003 solo show The Kids Are Alright.
Though the lawsuit alludes to some dubious evidence, like McGinley’s reaction when he ran into Gordon at a 2003 opening reception at PS1, some of the photos (like the two above) do seem strikingly similar. Similarities between other images cited, like the two below, seem much less compelling grounds for a lawsuit.
Also named as co-defendants in the case are Ratio 3 gallery in San Francisco—where both artists have shown simultaneously—Peter Hay Halpert Fine Arts and Team Gallery, both of which show McGinley’s photos. However uneven the case may seem, Gordon enlisted the support of former New Museum curator Dan Cameron, who writes in an affidavit:
My long-term expertise as a critic and curator gives me, I believe, sufficient authority to say, without hesitation, that Ms. Gordon’s work is completely original, in concept, color, composition and content, and that Ryan McGinley has derived much of his work from her creations
Meanwhile, a motion filed by the defendants’ lawyers on behalf of McGinley alleges that Gordon
has no claim to ideas as general and unprotectable as, for example, an interracial couple kissing; a person gazing skyward with outstretched arms; or a man riding on a spotted horse.
Gordon is seeking $30,000 per offending artwork, of which 150 are listed in the suit, so that’s… $4.5 million. Expect more on this soon. In the meantime, remember when McGinley photographed the winter Olympics?