Artist may take Maurizio Cattelan to court over banana work, a Florida judge says

Maurizio Cattelan is notorious comedian piece – a found object consisting of a banana taped to the wall – is making waves again. Last week, a federal court in Miami ruled that a US artist can take legal action against Cattelan for allegedly copying the banana work that drew huge crowds at the 2019 Art Basel Miami Beach fair.

The court denied Cattelan’s motion to dismiss US artist Joe Morford’s lawsuit alleging Cattelan comedian infringes the copyright of one’s own works, Banana & Orange. “Morford may claim some degree of copyright protection in the ‘selection, coordination, [and] Arrangement’ of these otherwise non-protectable elements,” US District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. said in his ruling.

in miami, comedian became a viral hit. The piece “offers insight [into] how we assign value and what kind of objects we value,” read a statement from Galerie Perrotin, which displayed the collection of objects found. Duchamp’s gesture divided critics and commentators (the banana was eventually eaten by performance artist David Datuna).

Court documents show two images of Morford claiming Cattelan “plagiarized and copied”. Banana & Orange. Morford’s work consists of two parts: an orange taped to the wall and a separate work showing a banana fixed to the wall.

Scola says in the verdict: “The question of whether a banana taped to the wall can be art is a metaphysical rather than a legal question. But the legal issue in court can be just as tricky – has Morford made sufficient allegations that Cattelan’s banana hurt his banana?”

In 2000, Morford says he registered his work Banana & Orange at the US Copyright Office. “While Morford does not claim how widely this work was disseminated, it appears so Banana & Orange was accessible on Morford’s website, as well as through the social media platforms Facebook and YouTube.”

Morford argues Banana & Orange has been available on YouTube since July 2008 and on Facebook since July 2015. But Cattelan “cites a multitude of cases for the assertion that access cannot be obtained by mere internet publication,” says the judge.

The court applied the “abstraction filtration comparison” test to the case, a method to “identify substantial similarity.” In a highly technical analysis, the judge studied the works of Morford and Cattelan. “In both works, a single piece of silver tape runs diagonally upwards from left to right, attaching a centered yellow banana, sloping downwards from left to right, to a wall. In both works, the banana and tape intersect roughly halfway, although the tape is less centered on the banana in Morford’s work than in comedian,” he says.

The court finally puts “at the [early] Phase of motion to dismiss where Morford sufficiently asserts that there are similarities in the (few) protected elements Banana & Orange“. But Cattelan hits back, arguing that the “coordination and arrangement in Banana & Orange “not sufficiently original” to warrant protection. Copyright protection only extends to unique and original designs.” He also argues that the presence of “additional elements in Banana & Orange– namely an orange, the green background and the use of masking tape edges – argue against a finding of substantial similarity”.

According to court documents, Cattelan sold three copies of the work and two proofs for more than $390,000. In conversation with The art newspaper Last year, Cattelan said: “For mecomedian me, no joke; It was a sincere comment and a reflection of what we value. Speed ​​and busyness rule art fairs, so the way I saw it, if I had to be at a fair, I could sell a banana the way other people sell their paintings. I could play within the system, but with my rules.”

Cattelan is represented by Kane Kessler PC and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP (both have been asked to comment). Morford represents himself.

Leave a Comment

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial