Luc Tuymans Convicted of Plagiarism

Luc Tuymans. Photo courtesy of


Luc Tuymans. Photo courtesy of

Luc Tuymans. Photo courtesy of

Belgian artist Luc Tuymans has lost a legal battle in his home country over the alleged plagiarism of a photo of politician Jean-Marie Dedecker taken by Katrijn Van Giel. The photo was used to create his painting A Belgian Politician (2011). According to Belgian daily, De Morgen, Tuymans will be subject to a €500,000 ($579,000) fine if he makes any further reproductions of Van Giel’s work.

The existing painting is currently owned by Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky. Hyperallergic further claims that the artist is barred from exhibiting A Belgian Politician under similar penalty. However, artnet News could not independently verify this information.

The penalty imposed by the court a full week before a verdict was initially expected is 10 times the damages originally requested by Van Giel’s lawyers. Tuymans did not deny using Van Giel’s image as the basis for his work. However, he claims that it was done to criticize “the move to the right wing in Belgian society,” according to his lawyer, who spoke to Flanders Today. The court did not agree with Tuymans’s estimation of his intent. Van Giel’s legal team said they had always found the parody claim “weak.”

Tuymans has subsequently announced that he will appeal the verdict. His lawyers write in a press release that appropriation of existing images is a central part of the artist’s practice, like numerous other contemporary artists. “How can an artist question the world with his art if he cannot use images from that world?” they ask. They go on to suggest that the ruling is unjust on the grounds of freedom of expression: “This verdict prohibits a form of contemporary art and deprives contemporary artists the right to express themselves.”

The verdict against Tuymans comes as Jeff Koons faces a similar lawsuit in France over his 1988 work Fait d’Hiver (see Jeff Koons Plagiarism Lawsuit Could Top Millions). It was the first of two Koons works from his “Banality” series, which have been the subject of plagiarism claims (see Jeff Koons Sued for Plagiarism and Second Plagiarism Claim Against Jeff Koons in Two Weeks).

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