Artist wins court battle to stop buyer cutting up his £70k painting

An artist has won a court battle to prevent his painting from being cut into pieces by a designer watch brand.

Dann Thorleifsson and Arne Leivsgard, owners of Letho, had planned to cut up the work and use the pieces for decorative watch faces.

But a court yesterday ruled that it would be a breach of copyright.

In August, Copenhagen-based artist Tal R sold Paris Chic to the pair for £70,000 at the Victoria Miro gallery in London.

Dann Thorleifsson and Arne Leivsgard, owners of Letho, had planned to cut up the work (pictured) and use the pieces for decorative watch faces

Dann Thorleifsson and Arne Leivsgard, owners of Letho, had planned to cut up the work (pictured) and use the pieces for decorative watch faces

Two months later they revealed their plan to cut up the canvas and make around 300 watches – selling them for the equivalent of £1,150 each.

On their website, Mr Thorleifsson wrote: ‘We needed an artist that was esteemed by experts because we also needed to get a reaction. It needed to be a true masterpiece.’

Tal R dismissed the ‘disrespectful’ project as an attempt ‘to make money and get attention by making a product out of my art’. 

His lawyer, Jorgen Permin, argued that art owners can sell or destroy a work but do not have the right to ‘alter [it] and then reintroduce it to the public domain’.

Lawyers for Mr Thorleifsson and Mr Leivsgard said that the project would in fact constitute a destruction rather than an alteration but a judge in a Danish court disagreed.

The court forbade the duo from going ahead with their project and ordered them to pay £3,600 in legal costs.

It also ruled that the project misused Tal R’s artistic standing for commercial gain, and threatened to damage his reputation. Mr Permin said he was ‘very pleased with the very clear decision’.

He added: ‘We hope it will mark the end of this case and that it will mean that Tal R and his fellow artists may avoid similar disputes in the future.’

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