The plagiarism of art by fashion, a luxury of snags and scratches


On the left, an image from the video “And Beneath it All Flows Liquid Fire” (2019), by Julian Charrière;  on the right, an image taken from the promotional video posted by Zadig & Voltaire on Instagram.

A fountain on fire, the image is not trivial. Posted twice on Instagram, on January 19 and 26, by Zadig & Voltaire, this promotional video, which accompanied the parade organized at the Poush artists’ studios, in Aubervilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis), literally… ignited the networks social. For the communicators of this ready-to-wear brand, the advertising campaign is a hymn to “the freedom that burns within each of us” and to “flamboyant, bold and unfettered confidence”. For Julian Charrière, it is plagiarism, neither more nor less.

Because this fountain on fire resembles the one that the young Franco-Swiss visual artist filmed in 2019 for his video And Beneath it All Flows Liquid Fire. Same size, same nocturnal atmosphere, same crackling flames in soundtrack. That of Zadig & Voltaire, on the other hand, is placed on a base. The difference is mainly in the speech. Committed to ecological issues, Julian Charrière conceived his work as “a memorial against the naive pride of the human species which believes itself above nature, whose resources it plunders”.

Produced as part of a performance in Lugano (Switzerland), And Beneath it All Flows Liquid Fire has been screened many times. Noticed in 2022 in the “Novacène” exhibition, organized in Lille 3000, it was exhibited the same year at the Benedetto-Marcello music conservatory during the Venice Biennale, as well as at the Art Basel Miami Beach fair, in the United States. . Could it have escaped Thierry Gillier, the founder of Zadig & Voltaire, also an ardent collector of works by Tracey Emin and Anne Imhof, but also its artistic director, Cecilia Bonstrom? Contacted by The worldthe brand denies any plagiarism and claims to have been inspired by “the pyrotechnic effects in French gardens, the fountains of the Place de la Concorde, and generations of artists”. Way of indicating that Julian Charrière does not have the monopoly of the fountains on fire.

More or less skilful borrowings

For lawyer Marc-Olivier Deblanc, who represents the interests of the artist nominated for the Marcel-Duchamp Prize in 2021, copyright is however clear: “Any use, reproduction, borrowing, misappropriation must be subject to a minimum authorization and, as long as it is, to remuneration for the benefit of the author. » Julian Charrière, who never gave his authorization to Zadig & Voltaire, therefore claims several tens of thousands of euros in damages. “I first proposed an amicable agreement with financial compensation entirely paid to a non-profit organization working to protect tropical forests”, he confides. The brand refuses. “Everything that was offered to me, continues the artist, it’s a fraction of the compensation to buy my silence. But I’m not interested in financial gain. I think it’s inappropriate to accept money and just forget about this matter as if nothing happened. »

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