Damien Hirst Sued Over Jewelry Line Plagiarism

Hirst’s pill bracelets are the bone of contention.

Damien Hirst. Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.
Damien Hirst. Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

Damien Hirst has been left with a bitter pill to swallow after being sued by Canadian artist and jewelry designer Colleen Wolstenholme for allegedly plagiarizing her pill charm bracelets.

In a suit filed at Manhattan federal court last week, Wolstenholme claims that she started using the pill motif in her work in 1996 and used the same imagery in “bracelets, necklaces, pendants, rosaries, earrings, cuff links, and rings.”

According to The Fashion Law, the suit accuses Hirst of “willfully and wrongfully copying, creating, manufacturing, and/or selling [the bracelets] on an ongoing and continuous basis.”

Colleen Wolstenholme's bracelet, which she has been creating since 1996. Photo: courtesy Art Mur gallery, Montreal.

Colleen Wolstenholme’s bracelet, which she has been creating since 1996. Photo courtesy of Art Mur gallery, Montreal.

Wolstenholme’s designs, which are priced between $1,000 and $3,500, have been displayed at various galleries and have been marketed and advertised in newspapers, magazines, and online, both in Canada and the US.

In contrast, Hirst has been selling his version of the pill bracelets on his online shop “Other Criteria” for between $15,000 and $35,000, since 2004.

Wolstenholme, who holds copyrights for the designs in Canada and has applied for her designs to be protected under copyright in the US, described Hirst as “notorious” and alleged that the British artist “has been subject of numerous allegations of copying fellow artists.”

Damien Hirst's version of the pill bracelet, which he has been selling since 2004. Photo: Other Critera.

Damien Hirst’s version of the pill bracelet, which he has been selling since 2004. Photo via Other Criteria.

The Canadian artist and designer wants the court to order Hirst to suspend sales of his version of the pill charm bracelet under copyright violation and unfair competition laws, and she has asked the court to award her damages, as well as the payment of all profits made from the unlawful sale of the jewelry.

This isn’t the first time that Hirst has been accused of plagiarism. According to the Observer, in 2007 the member of the Young British Artists group was accused by his former friend John LeKay of copying the famous diamond skull artwork For the Love of God, which LeKay claimed was heavily based on his crystal skull artworks made in the early 90s.

Neither Colleen Wolstenholme nor Damien Hirst immediately responded to artnet News’ request for comment.

UPDATE: On the morning of June 16, a spokesperson for Science Ltd told artnet News via email: “We refute the claim made by Colleen Wolstenholme. Damien Hirst designed his earliest pill work in 1988, long before Wolstenholme created her first jewellery. We will defend any action brought against Damien.”


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