Artist Shantell Martin Ponders Legal Action After a Wine Brand Allegedly Stole Her Work for Its Label
Bodegas San Huberto appears to have directly copied a mural Martin created for a 2017 show at the Albright-Knox in Buffalo.
The label for the company’s Aminga Malbec features drawings that appear to be lifted directly from a site-specific drawing Martin created for her 2017 solo show “Someday We Can” at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. At the time, the work was registered with the US Copyright office.
Martin shared a photograph of the offending product on Twitter yesterday, assuring her followers that she was not, in fact, collaborating with the winemakers. (If you spot the artist’s work on a bottle of 1800 Tequila, however, that’s legit—Martin designed six limited-edition bottles for the company’s Essential Artists series in 2018.)
In a side-by-side comparison of the wine packaging and her original art, Martin highlighted several identical-looking sections. The New York-based, London-born artist first became aware of the similarities in April.
“People in London started to tag me in IG stories,” Martin told Artnet News. “I mostly work in the US, so fans in the UK are really happy when they find my work out there.”
When Martin reached out to Bodegas San Huberto, “the company told me how everyone loved the label and that it has been doing extremely well in the UK,” she said. “Long story short, they have not been very willing to sort this out/amend the situation.”
A representative from the wine company did not respond to Artnet News’s request for comment.
In 2016, Martin called out plus-sized women’s clothing company Lane Bryant for stealing her signature “You Are You” logo for a t-shirt, and using a background of her cartoonish faces to market the garment. The brand ultimately apologized as part of a confidential settlement with the artist.
“A total shame that something like this has happened to me again, especially now, artists like myself have been working so hard to support movements and other artists in so many ways,” Martin said. “The artist is often made out to be the aggressor when speaking out about such situations, which also does not help things. I’ve been described as slamming brands… [when I’m] simply trying to protect my rights as an independent artist.”
Martin is not the only artist to find herself in this situation. Other fashion companies that have been accused of copying artists’ work without credit include Walmart, Forever 21, Kohl’s, Topman, and Zara. And it’s a problem that doesn’t appear to be going away.
“Brands do it because they can, because it’s easy, and because they are often too lazy to do it the right way,” Martin said. “The sad thing is that there is so much growth and reward when companies hire and collaborate with artists, versus stealing from them.”
“I feel like I have to speak up, especially for the artist out there who do not have a platform in all of this,” Martin added.
The artist is planning, reluctantly, to take legal action. “I always try to avoid this,” Martin said. “These things are extremely costly emotionally, financially, and frankly I would rather be in my studio drawing and doing what I love versus spending time on something like this.”
See more photos of Martin’s original artwork below.
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