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Jeff Koons sued over 1980s Gordon’s gin ad

US contemporary artist Jeff Koons is being sued over claims he used another photographer’s photo in a 1986 advert for Gordon’s gin.

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The advert as released in 1986

Twenty years after the advert was release, photographer Mitchel Gray has filed a lawsuit in the US which claims that Koons reproduced his photo, which shows a man sitting next to a woman painting on a beach, as reported by The Telegraph. He claims the photo was “nearly unchanged and in its entirety”.

The photograph was first published in an advertisement for Gordon’s Dry Gin in 1986. Entitled ‘I could go for something Gordon’s’, the photo was part of a series of spirits-themed paintings called “Luxury and Degradation.”

Despite the advert running twenty years ago, Gray says he only discovered it in July of this year. There is a three-year window for making copyright claims, however the time frame only begins when the plaintiff learns of the infringement, making copyright claims against decades old work possible.

The lawsuit, which was filed in a Manhattan court on Monday, claims that Koons “knew, or should have known, that he was required to obtain an artist’s permission before he could lawfully copy a work by that artist”.

Gray is seeking damages and any profits generated from the use of the photograph, adding that he believed he is also entitled to punitive damages because the infringement was willful. Gray is also suing New York-based auction house Phillips Auctioneers and an unnamed former owner of the Koons print, which sold for $2.04 million in London in 2008. Phillips Auctioneers has already released a statement stating that they are confident the company “has no liability in this matter.”

Jeff Koons is known for his reproductions of banal objects, such as inflatable animals with mirror-finish surfaces, reflective sculptures and colourful artworks. In 2013 his work “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sold for $58.4 million, the highest price for a living artist’s work sold at auction.

Koons designed the 2010 label of Pauillac first growth Château Mouton Rothschild, joining a long line of artists to have created an original work for the château since 1945. In his design, Koons works over a Pompeii fresco of The Birth of Venus with a silver line drawing of a ship sailing under a bright sun.

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Jeff Koon’s balloon dog (Orange)

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