Ubiquitous yet unknown, UK street artist, Banksy, not a fan of copyright protection, has resorted to trademark law to stop unauthorized sale of his work in Italy.
Banksy’s company, Pest Control, sued an Italian company for “selling unauthorized merchandise in connection to an art exhibition. In a provisional ruling, a court in Milan has ordered the company to stop selling the merchandise at hand.”
Banksy’s satiric images are among the most recognizable in the world, yet his identify is unknown. He has said that “copyright is for losers.” The Italian matter was the first time he had enforced his trademarks, perhaps not because of the lost income, as much as to maintain control and prevent over-commercialization.
That his company, Pest Control, sued a museum gift shop may not be an accident. ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop,’ Banksy’s 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary about street artists and how they work, not only illuminated their challenges but elevated the importance of their work. Some believe that the non-fiction film is hoax, or at best a staging, designed to perpetuate Banksy’s mystique.
Questionable IP Strategy
“What is most interesting about this [trademark] matter, writes Vittoria Romano an Australian lawyer on Lexology, “that in concealing his identity, Banksy limits his ability to enforce Copyright.
“Further, his deliberate opposition to using his brand in market puts him at risk of failing to show use. It seems the Pest Control team need to work on an IP strategy moving forward in order to protect the commercial side of his art, even if that is considered to go against his anti-establishment messages.”
Watch Banksy’s $1.2 million ‘Balloon Girl’ Self-Destruct at Sotheby’s in London
Prankster or Profit?
“Banksy’s painting of a girl and a balloon, which began shredding itself moments after it sold at auction for $1.4 million in London on Friday night, remains to be seen,” wrote art critic Andrea K. Scott in The New Yorker.
“Sotheby’s hasn’t disclosed the buyer’s identity. (Such opacity is not uncommon in the art market.) If this person was shelling out for love of the image alone, I would suggest picking up a replacement at Target, where a print version is currently on sale for $36.79, down from forty-six dollars. But, if the painting was purchased as an investment, the buyer might as well follow through.
“The picture’s destruction, like that of Tinguely’s machine, was halted before the job was complete, and there is already speculation that the work in damaged form will become even more valuable than it was before. If the stunt was intended to mock the spectacle of art being reduced to a price tag, the joke might be on Banksy.
“But since it was clearly also a bid for more notoriety—for an artist bent on maintaining anonymity, Banksy does not shy away from the limelight—a cynic might call this is his best art work yet. Since Sunday, the spectacle [see video above] has been viewed nearly nine million times, in a video that Banksy posted to Instagram.” [His page is worth viewing.]
Experts speculated that the price of the shredded ‘Balloon Girl’ increased some 50% or $700K immediately upon partial destruction.
Banksy encourages us to regard vacant spaces and familiar images in humorous ways, and not to take art (or ourselves) too seriously.
For The New Yorker piece, go here.
The Pest Control website is chuckle-worthy, especially “What is Pest Control?”
Images source: marinimacuna.com; thetimes.co.uk; theverge.com; wemp.app
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