The French contemporary art community had to push a “puff” of relief: on Friday the Paris court finally ruled in favor of the artist Maurizio Cattelan, in the lawsuit that opposed him to the sculptor Daniel Druet, who had made for him sculptures and considered himself the true author of the works.

For four years, 80-year-old French sculptor Daniel Druet, known for his work for the Grévin museum, fought against 61-year-old Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan. Between 1999 and 2006 the former produced nine surprisingly realistic wax figures for the latter, many of which became emblematic of the work of the provocateur Cattelan, in particular the pope crushed by a meteorite (The Ninth Hour1999) and a child Adolf Hitler, kneeling in penance (He, 2001).

Daniel Druet, who had been properly paid for his sculptures (but not commensurate with the stratospheric sums that the works in question are worth today), had repeatedly asked that his name be at least mentioned in Cattelan’s exhibitions. Exasperated that this is not the case, even during the exhibition He is not afraid of love by Maurizio Cattelan at the Monnaie de Paris in 2016, at the inauguration of which he had not even been invited, the sculptor had decided to take revenge by claiming the exclusive authorship of the works in court.

In April 2018, the Frenchman then sued the Perrotin gallery before the Paris court for copyright infringement and copyright infringement, as well as La Monnaie de Paris for exhibiting four of his works without mentioning their name. On this occasion he intended to report “all artists who use the work of others to promote themselves“. This cause has terrified the contemporary art world for several weeks. It has indeed questioned the very notion of creation. Who is the author? The one who conceptualizes the work or the one who creates it? performer?

The work

When we look at the work of these works, it is indisputable that we have an artistic expression“, instead “Mr. Cattelan, by his own admission, cannot sculpt, cannot paint, cannot draw“, said the actor’s lawyer, Me Jean-Baptiste Bourgeois, during the hearing on May 13, 2022.

The material realization of the work takes a back seat to its design“, Mr. Cattelan’s lawyer, Me Eric Andrieu, defended for his part.”Mr. Druet has know-how (…) but this know-how gives no creative choice because all he will do is follow the instructions“, And “mathematically precise instructions“he added. What Daniel Druet disputed that the orders placed were”waves“.

The Paris court did not follow him. The magistrates ruled on Friday that “it is not (…) not disputed that the precise guidelines for staging the wax effigies in a specific configuration (…) it only came from [Maurizio Cattelan] alone, Daniel Druet not being in any way able – nor trying to do so – to assume the minimum participation in the choices related to the scenographic arrangement of the situation of the said effigies (…) or the content of the possible message to be conveyed through this staging“.

The court reproached him primarily for not having originally initiated proceedings against the controversial Italian artist, but against his representative, the Perrotin gallery, and an institution that set up an exhibition of these works, the Monnaie de Paris. “Not having personally summoned Maurizio Cattelan, alleged author, (…) Daniel Druet must be declared inadmissible in all his claims for copyright infringement“, The court found.

The defense considered this ruling to be an example. “This decision constitutes a real jurisprudence as, for the first time, the magistrates consecrate conceptual art with a decision of principle“, Wrote the lawyers of the Perrotin gallery, Pierre-Yves Gautier and Pierre-Olivier Sur in a statement.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Jean-Baptiste Bourgeois, contested that interpretation. In this judgment,there is no line at the bottom of the folder. It is the end of inadmissibility, as a matter of form“he told AFP.”Of course, I regret not having assigned Maurizio Cattelan at the start, but I consider the decision totally unfounded (…) The same court, the same chamber, in February 2020, certainly in a different composition, had recognized our requests as admissible.“, He recalled.

The court also sentenced Daniel Druet, who demanded 3 million euros from the Perrotin gallery and 300,000 euros from the Paris Mint, to reimburse 10,000 euros to the Perrotin gallery, and the same sum from the Paris Mint. Daniel Druet’s lawyer intends to appeal or start from scratch by directly appointing Maurizio Cattelan. The latter, who lives in New York and was not present at the hearing on May 13, has never mentioned this case.

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