Pop artist Jeff Koons sued over adult film set prop

2 minute read

Artist Jeff Koons poses for a photo at the unveiling oh his public art piece "Seated Ballerina" at Rockefeller Center in New York, May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

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  • Artist says Koons copied a sculpture he made for Koons' ex-wife, adult-film star Cicciolina
  • Plaintiff asks for damages, credit, ban on sales

(Reuters) - An artist who made a sculpture of a serpent wrapped around a rock for Italian adult-film star and politician Cicciolina (Ilona Staller) said in a court complaint filed Thursday that Jeff Koons, Staller's ex-husband, unlawfully used the sculpture in his works.

Koons misused Michael Hayden's art in a series of works called "Made in Heaven," which depicted the pop artist in sexual positions with Staller on top of the sculpture, according to the complaint brought in Manhattan federal court.

Representatives for Koons didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The complaint said Hayden lived and worked in Italy in the late 1980s and often designed sets and props for Staller's filmsand live performances. Hayden said he created the sculpture for Staller in 1988 specifically because he "knew that Cicciolina was fond of snakes."

According to the complaint, Koons traveled to Italy in 1989 to be photographed with Staller for his "Made in Heaven" series. Hayden said that three works in the series depict Koons and Staller on the rock-and-serpent sculpture.

The complaint says Koons never asked Hayden for permission to use his sculpture, offered to credit him, or paid for a license.

Koons has been sued for copyright infringement several times, including in a 2015 lawsuit for allegedly ripping off a photograph from a gin ad. Hayden's attorney Jordan Fletcher of Fletcher Law also represented the photographer in that case, which the parties resolved in 2016.

"We believe this is a massive violation of Mr. Hayden's rights as an artist, and Mr. Hayden looks forward to presenting his case to the Court," Fletcher said in an email.

The complaint said Fletcher didn't realize Koons had infringed until 2019, when he saw an Italian news article with an image from "Made in Heaven." It asked the court for money damages, to block Koons from selling or reproducing the works, and to give Hayden credit as an author, among other things.

The case is Hayden v. Koons, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:21-cv-10249.

For Hayden: Jordan Fletcher of Fletcher Law, Linda Kattwinkel of Owen Wickersham & Erickson

For Koons: N/A

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Artist Jeff Koons sued for copyright infringement over gin ad photo

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com