It was just over a year ago when Jeff Koons’ lawyers sent a letter to Park Life, an art gallery and store in San Francisco, demanding the “immediate cessation” of sales of their balloon dog bookends, claiming, essentially, that they were violations of the artist’s visio-material monopoly on objects that look like, or appear to look like, or might appear to be, or that perhaps also are, balloon dogs and their kindred creatures in the kingdom of balloonal fauna.
Or something like that. It certainly sounded much more justifiable, if not threatening, in proper legalese. It must have, for the store did cease and desist with all requisite quickness.
This was a rather unforgettable debacle, not to mention one that was also abundantly lampooned. It was lampooned enough, actually, to encourage Koons to drop the whole thing. But if you need a refresher on how it started, see Benjamin Sutton’s post about it here. It links you further to all the right places.
So, well, what’s The New Yorker got to do with it? Perhaps quite little, ultimately. But if Mr. Koons is looking for a new place to send some admonishing legal writ, he might consider their offices.
In the current issue of the magazine (March 19th, 2012) are a handful of spot drawings by Maximilian Bode, all instantly recognizable depictions of famous modern and contemporary sculptures. There’s an Alexander Calder, a Louise Bourgeois, a Constantin Brancusi and, naturally, a Koons.
The Koons represented is of course, quite patently (interpret as you wish), a balloon dog. Have a peek at page 49, if you will. No bones about it, right?
So one wonders, might Mr. Koon’s proprietary assumptions (or whatever) regarding balloon creatures, specifically of the Canis balloonus variety, extend to such small scale renderings thereof? The magazine is, like those bookends were, for sale, after all, right? Isn’t it about making money off of someone else’s intellectual (cough) property?
One hopes he couldn’t actually sue the magazine for this. Or wouldn’t, since he gave up on that other case. But one also hopes that he’ll give it a try.
Because everyone knows what happens when you send unsolicited manuscripts (cough cough) to The New Yorker.
You get that endearingly mass-generated, standard rejection in reply!
Just a thought.
Another thought: It is interesting and telling, and so forth, that the article in which the image of Koons’ balloon dog is the lone spot drawing is “Tax Me If You Can,” by James B. Stewart. It’s about super-rich folks and their ilk having their way with things. Evading taxes, finding loopholes, et cetera.
You can follow Paul D’Agostino on Twitter @postuccio