San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Accused of Pastry Plagiarism

Did the museum copy art cake ideas?

Mondrian Cake. Photo: SFMOMA via Facebook.
Mondrian Cake. Photo: Art & Interior Design via Facebook.

Mondrian Cake. Photo: Art & Interior Design via Facebook.

A pastry plagiarism battle has broken out in San Francisco after Bay Area pastry chef Caitlin Freeman accused the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art of copying her art-themed cakes.

Freeman and her husband James opened the Blue Bottle café on the museum’s fifth floor in 2009, where she created a range of cakes and pastries in the likeness of artworks by masters such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Roy Lichtenstein. The standout was reportedly her signature Piet Mondrian cake.

Freeman even wrote a cookbook in 2013 titled Modern Art Desserts, and the Blue Bottle café has since grown into a national chain with locations across the US.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, © Henrik Kam.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, © Henrik Kam.

But when SFMOMA reopened after a multi-year renovation and expansion, the Freemans lost the contract to the fifth floor café to McCalls Catering.

The fact that her creations are being copied by a rival after the museum chose not to renew Blue Bottle’s contract is especially difficult for Freeman to understand. “If they didn’t want what I was doing, then why is this happening?” she told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It makes me not what to go back to the museum, but it’s so beautiful.”

Freeman wrote a cookbook in 2013. Photo: Blue Bottle Coffee

Freeman wrote a cookbook in 2013. Photo: Blue Bottle Coffee

Unfortunately, there’s little room for legal redress for plagiarism in the food industry, although copycats can suffer damage to their reputation. “It’s so tacky and so gross, but there’s kind of nothing I can do about it,” Freeman added. “I guess I just have to feel good that I wrote the goddamn book on art desserts.”

McCalls Catering did not reply to artnet News’ request for comment, but the company’s president, Lucas Schoemaker, told the San Francisco Chronicle in a statement, “There is no controversy. It’s SFMOMA who needs to answer all these questions.”

Freeman did not immediately respond to artnet News’ request for comment, but she spoke to artnet News in 2013 about art-related pastry.


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