Artist Cj Hendry’s Wildly Popular Art Scavenger Hunt Is the Subject of a New Documentary That Captures the Thrill of the Chase
Step inside Cj Hendry's 'Copyright Infringement' global scavenger hunt.
For the past five years, Australian artist Cj Hendry has delighted her hoards of fans—681,000 Instagram followers and counting—with an annual event gifting them t-shirts featuring her hyper-realistic drawings that recreate other artists’ work, by leaving in red boxes marked “Copyright Infringement” in public places she announces on social media.
Now, the wildly popular scavenger hunt is the subject of a forthcoming documentary film, also titled Copyright Infringement, from David Sabshon.
The director spent months filming Hendry in her studio both in the lead-up to and the aftermath of “Copyright Infringement 4.0” in 2021, and was on the ground as she dropped boxes in five cities in North America, Australia, and the U.K. across the span of a single week. It was the biggest iteration of the project to date.
Hendry held “Copyright 5.0” in 2022, but for those who have yet to participate, the forthcoming film—which is currently being submitted to festivals—could be the best chance to experience the madness. The artist said that last year’s edition was the last one.
The movie—the first feature from D’Marie Productions—is the brainchild of producer Frank Spadafora, who had worked with Sabshon on previous projects and approached him about working on the project.
“Frank is a huge fan of Cj’s. He had actually run for a box in the original ‘Copyright Infringement,’ but didn’t get one,” Sabshon told Artnet News.
“Cj hadn’t been interested in participating in a documentary before, but Frank reached out to her, shared his story about participating in the madness, and won her over,” he explained. “Cj was game to let us follow her around, invade her space, and make the film awesome.”
The first “Copyright Infringement” came about in 2018. Hendry had created a line of t-shirts based on drawings of Andy Warhol Polaroids that she had crumpled up. But before she could sell the merchandise, the Muhammed Ali estate served her with a copyright infringement notice, insisting she could not sell the shirt featuring the late boxer’s likeness.
“Being this cheeky rule-breaking spirit, Cj was like, ‘okay, I have to get rid of them, and I can’t sell them. I spent all this money, so let’s at least have some fun,’” Sabshon said. “She’d leave a box, then post on Instagram, ‘don’t go to the corner of 23rd and 7th and grab the box labeled trash.’”
What Hendry wasn’t expecting was her fans’ rabid enthusiasm for the impromptu treasure hunt, with her online followers suddenly trailing her across the streets of New York to try and snag a box.
“These $20 t-shirts became priceless collector’s items,” Sabshon said.
In the subsequent years, the “Copyright Infringement” craze has only grown—to the point where people call out of work to spend their entire day trying to stay one step ahead of the artist, be the first to a drop location, and claim their prize.
“She could do a drop in any city and there’d be a community of Cj fans who would participate,” Sabshon said. “The boxes would all be gone. I’m talking 30 seconds to two minutes after being put down, and every box is gone.”
The film’s newly released trailer perfectly captures this frantic energy. Moments after Hendry drops her first box, a young woman frantically sprints into frame, like a tribute at the start of The Hunger Games scrambling to collect weapons and supplies.
“It’s so fun to see people show up for these boxes. They’re completely winded, they’re buckled over,” Sahshon said. “People just want it so badly. They get incredibly competitive!”
With 50 box drops per day, the director estimated that Hendry makes a drop every five to seven minutes, starting as early as 6:30 in the morning—and sometimes having to finish before the late afternoon in order to catch a flight to the next city.
The film follows Hendry during drops in Mexico City, Chicago, and New York, with local production crews documenting drops in London and Brisbane overseen by the artist’s family and friends—she’s ambitious, but geography and time zones still have their constraints.
“Cj tries to make it difficult for people to anticipate where she’s gonna drop a box. They’ll be like, ‘okay she’s in this neighborhood and was on the street. She’s probably headed this way!'” Sabshon said. “There’s definitely like some game play in terms of trying to outsmart the fans.”
The documentary crew follows some of these fans in their quest, capturing both moments of triumph and many disappointed faces, as many people converge on a spot only to realize the box has already been claimed—and not always by Hendry fans.
“At one drop in London, Cj left a box at a gas station, and the manager called it into the police,” Sabshon said. “So these boys were trying to convince the police that it was an art project. They were like, ‘it’s not a bomb; please let us have it!’”
It’s these kind of wacky hijinks that captures the wild essence not only of the “Copyright Infringement” project, but Hendry’s entire practice as a self-taught artist who has built her success on social media.
Operating entirely without gallery representation—Sabshon called her studio a “mom and pop shop”—she’s staged popular exhibitions in New York and London, creating immersive and interactive environments in which to display her incredibly detailed drawings. And the fans have loved every minute of it.
“In some ways, the story of Copyright Infringement is less like an art documentary and more like a tour documentary,” Sahshon said. “It’s this high-energy traveling thing—and the fans play such a big role in what makes the magic.”
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