Jeff Koons Was Found Guilty of Copying a French Advertisement. But Why Hasn’t The Woman Behind the Ad Gotten Any Credit?
The ad campaign’s female co-author, Elisabeth Bonamy, has a bone to pick with Franck Davidovici.
In an ironic twist to a years-long legal dispute, the French ad executive who successfully sued Jeff Koons for plagiarism in Paris earlier this month has now been accused of not giving a fellow creative proper credit himself.
On November 8, a judge ordered Koons to pay Franck Davidovici some $168,000 for appropriating the look and title of an ad campaign he produced in 1985 for a 1988 sculpture. (Koons’s company and the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which showed the work, were also found liable.) But in the media furore surrounding the case, Davidovici has been very quiet about the woman who co-authored the campaign in question.
Art director Elisabeth Bonamy says she conceived and executed the visual elements of the advertisement for the French fashion brand Naf Naf, which depicted a pig—the brand’s mascot—coming to the aid of a woman lying in the snow.
“Franck has always taken advantage to make his name famous while completely forgetting me,” Bonamy told artnet News. “It’s not very elegant.” She says that Davidovici’s credit-taking has also upset the photographer of the advertisement, William Klein.
Bonamy says she first conceived the ad’s visual concept for an earlier Naf Naf campaign she worked on with Davidovici and Klein. The campaign even won an award from the prestigious Club des Directeurs Artistiques, arguably the most important distinction in the field.
Later, Davidovici asked Bonamy to join him on a follow-up advertisement—the one that Koons would later appropriate. Davidovici, who was a copywriter by trade, contributed the title: “Fait d’hiver.” (The phrase, which translates literally to “fact of winter,” is a homonym of the French “fait divers,” meaning a short news item.)
Davidovici first sued Koons in 2014—but it wasn’t until recently that he contacted Bonamy for help. She says she met with the ad man and his lawyer, Jean Aittouares, who asked her to join the suit because, she believes, they were afraid Koons’s lawyers would discover her involvement in the campaign. After she declined, she says, the court issued her a compulsory summons forcing her to either join the suit, fight against Davidovici, or waive her copyright so that Davidovici could pursue the case alone. (artnet News put this sequence of events to Davidovici’s lawyer, but did not hear back by press time.)
Not wanting to take on the financial risk or trouble of a lawsuit, Bonamy chose the latter option. She signed an agreement waiving her rights to Davidovici on two conditions. First, she wanted a cut of the winnings from the case if he was victorious, a confidential sum she described as “marginal” and “very symbolic.” She also asked that her name be mentioned every time the case was in the press.
“On my own, I’m not sure I would have sued Jeff Koons. It’s not really my style of art, but it’s very flattering to be copied by a famous… businessman,” Bonamy said (though she added it would have been more polite if Koons had asked them and included their names in the piece).
When the verdict came down in Davidovici’s favor, the story went viral. (Koons and the Pompidou have so far declined to comment publicly on the decision.) Bonamy was disappointed to see that her name was seldom mentioned in the coverage, and that the few outlets that did include her minimized her role, describing her as a layout technician rather than the campaign’s artistic director. “I don’t abide the fact that Franck can be the copywriter, creative director, and soon he will be the photographer as well!” she told us.
Bonamy says she sent Davidovici’s lawyer a letter expressing her frustration. Contacted by artnet News, Davidovici’s attorney Jean Aittouares noted that the court ruling doesn’t mention her name because “she was not part of the trial and because the judges decided so.” He added that the same is true of the photographer, William Klein. “At the moment, there is nothing I can do about that,” he said. Davidovici could not be reached directly for comment.
For her part, Bonamy is not convinced. “I would be very happy to discover that Maître Aittouares has quoted my name here and there, when he is congratulating himself for his success; he can do that quite easily,” she said. “I think I’ve been taken for a ride and if I were to do it over, I should have been more tough.”
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