|Sarah Morris, Installation view, Black Beetle, Fondation Beyeler, 2008, Riehan/Basel, photo: Todd Eberle”|
Back in March, the lawsuit against Sarah Morris had arrived at a settlement. Thus spake Dr. Lang:
For several years, American artist Sarah Morris created a series of paintings on the theme of origami in which she took origami crease patterns by several international origami artists, changed the color scheme, made up her own names for them, and then sold and exhibited them internationally without obtaining permission or giving credit. Six of the origami artists whose work was so used have filed suit for copyright infringement against Ms. Morris in Federal Court in Oakland, California.
For example, here are two side-by-side comparisons between the original origami artwork (on the left) and Ms. Morris's painting (on the right).
Morris doesn't dispute that she used the crease patterns of the plaintiffs. It's pretty obvious she didn't just "think these up" out of thin air, herself.
Why did we take this step, you might ask? Among other reasons, under American copyright law, the original artist has the right to control derivative works of our original works. ("Derivative works" are those works that are based upon our original works, but do other things to them—such as colorizing them, in this case.) As the original artists, we recognize that copyright law gives artists substantial rights regarding use of their artwork. Although we published our crease patterns, that does not mean we gave up our ownership rights to the original art works we created.
I first contacted Ms. Morris about this in 2009. After two years of repeated (but futile) attempts to get her to acknowledge our rights, we filed suit.
With the lawsuit settled, Dan Duray writing for the New York Observer's Gallerist NY in an article entitled Beneath the Fold: The Twisted Tale of Origami v. Sarah Morris, takes the tone of someone who disregards origami as a serious expression of art; his sympathies appear to lie with Sarah Morris
The plaintiffs had something else to gain in suing someone they perceived as a gatekeeper: entrance to a world of art history and galleries as alien to them as their practice is to it. When displayed, Ms. Morris’s works will now credit the creators of the CPs on wall labels.
“In the commercial art world (e.g., advertising),” Dr. Lang wrote in an email about the case’s implications, there “seems to already be a reasonable understanding of the need to get permission before using an [origami] artist’s work. In the fine art world, cases like ours might heighten the level of awareness of the principle.”
That no precedent was set here seems fitting enough for a case that involves the ephemeral art of paper folding. Though Ms. Morris did say that a friend pointed out to her that a group of origami zealots suing an artist was just about “the ‘least zen’ thing he’d ever heard.”
This blogger also supports Morris. I really don't understand his arguments. Especially his point #2 argument regarding size differentiation.
Personally, from an art observer's standpoint, if one had to weigh the contributions of the authors of the crease patterns and the one who did the coloring, which artist contributed more significance to the product? To be insulting, I'd say anyone can do the coloring in. It doesn't take an artist to color within (or even without) the lines in varying combinations; but it does take an "origami zealot" to create a pattern that has significant geometric and mathematical meaning aside from looking pretty.
But what do I know?
Hat tip: Scott Cramer on the O-List