Who gets the acclaim for conceptual art?Inside a Paris courtroom, a sculptor is fighting Maurizio Cattelan’s gallery for recognition

In the studio of French sculptor Daniel Druet, conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan is everywhere: in fRamed magazine cover depicting Cattelan sculpture he (2001), La Nona Ora (1999), and two American police officers upside down frank and jamie (year 2002). And then there’s a portrait of the Italian provocateur himself — cartoonish-looking in wax on wooden poles, with cheeks a little more plump than in real life. Wax Cattelan’s eyes were typically wide open, and Drouet gave him a rather pleasant smile.

“I never said he wasn’t a nice guy. I just didn’t have much affinity for him,” Druet said in his studio on a recent afternoon.

Lack of affinity is an understatement. We turned a corner and came to Druet’s sculpture get together, This is “With regard to concept art, other artists have other people work for them,” he said. The work shows Cattelan, who did not commission the work, peeking out of a large egg in a nest surrounded by smaller eggs, looking innocent and speechless. “He feeds on parent birds, or lays eggs in other nests,” Druet explained, referring to how Cattelan has benefited from Druet’s skills as a sculptor.

Sculpture by Daniel Drouet make up, in his studio. Photo by Devora Lauter.

Druet, the academically trained Prix de Rome winner, accused Cattelan’s longtime gallery Perrotin and the La Monnaie de Paris museum of ignoring his demands that he be the sculptor of nine works he created for Cattelan between 1999 and 2006. He is now suing for 4.5 million euros ($4.69 million) in damages and exclusive authorship of the nine wax figures.

Lawyers for Perrotin and Cattelan argued that Druet not only claimed to be the author of his wax figure, but the entire installation completed after Druet delivered the wax figure, In some cases theatrical scenes are included. if La Nona Orain one of the controversial pieces, the Pope was delivered standing, then Cattelan cut it in half and pinned it with a meteorite-like rock.

Druet and his attorney told Artnet News that they were simply looking for attribution of Druet’s waxwork, which exists in Cattelan’s larger work. Druet further questioned what artistic role Cattelan played in some of the wax figures being tried, if any, Arguing that some “just hang on the wall like I delivered”.

Wax figure by Druet Studio for Maurizio Cattelan. Photo by Devora Lauter.

What makes an artist?

For centuries, no-name assistants have worked hard to create artworks conceived by others. Should their contributions be officially recognized? Or are their skills interchangeable and interchangeable and therefore not worth mentioning?

These are some of the issues being considered by French judges in the trial, which begins on May 13.

The debate has also played out widely in the media. On May 14, leading figures in the French art world Le Monde Support Cattelan.

“Daniel Druet’s quest to be recognized as the exclusive author of work imagined by Maurizio Cattelan opens the door to disqualification of conceptual art,” wrote the editorial, written by Sophie Calle , Annette Messager and Xavier Veilhan among others.

Before the trial, Cattelan gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin told Le Mondewith tears in his eyes, according to the reporter, “Druet will remain in art history. If he loses, the precedent we’ve waited so long for will finally protect the artist from the potential abuse of power by manufacturers we don’t even know about.” He wins, all artists will be attacked, and it will be the end of French contemporary art.”

The works in question include some of Cattelan’s most famous, controversial and valuable creations, including La Nona Ora and hedepicts Hitler praying on his knees, his moustache resting on his head with a small body of childlike proportions.

For each piece, Cattelan commissioned Druet to develop a set of instructions. But according to his lawyer, Jean-Baptiste Bourgeois, during the trial, Druet claimed they were so vague that they left him “completely free to carve as much as he wanted.”

Perrotin’s lawyer refuted this claim, Noting that the detailed description is given with “mathematical precision”, And the finished sculpture was used as part of a larger installation.

Daniel Druet with the La Nona Ora. Photo by Devora Lauter.

crowded courtroom

The one-day trial was packed with onlookers and reporters, and had to be moved from a small courtroom reserved for intellectual property cases to a larger space. There, audiences hear debates ranging from how the act of creation is defined, what conceptual art means to whether Cattelan knows how to paint.

“Does Mr. Cattelan know how to infuse spirit into matter?” Druet’s lawyer, Bourgeois, referred to a quote from Frenchman Raymond Devos. “Never, because he didn’t know how,” he continued. “Today, there is a greater distance between makers [an artwork] and people who have this idea. ”

“Ideas are not protected by French law,” he concluded.

Cattelan, who did not appear in court, never concealed the fact that there were not many elements in his own work, but gave instructions for execution.

“I never touched the work myself. It was out of my control,” Cattelan told then-Guggenheim director Nancy Spector in a monograph published in 2000. The meaning of the work is really out of my control. “

Installation view at Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, 1999. Photographer: Attilio Maranzano.Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

Art Basel exhibition site, Basel,
1999. Photographer: Attilio Maranzano.Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

Cattelan’s team cites examples of the artist’s instructions for Druet, including, for example, the exact angle at which a pair of eyelids should fall. “even though [an artist] Without touching any work at all, they can be the exclusive author,” said Perrotin’s lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sur. To create these works, “Druet could be used by another sculptor. Replace, but Cattelan can’t. ”

However, this claim may be difficult to prove in court. French law “doesn’t suit conceptual art,” Sur said, adding that he hoped the case would help develop legal priorities.

Druet’s legal arguments focus on proving that he is not a “machine” and that he has an artistic “touch” that captures the expression of his subjects, often modeled in person. Without it, Cattelan’s work would indeed be different, and probably not as successful, he believes. Cattelan’s lawyers “claim that Druet’s creation was [Marcel Duchamp’s] Urinals,” Bourgeois said. “That’s excess. “

(Le Monde To quote Cattelan’s lawyer Eric Andrieu: “No one cares who created Marcel Duchamp’s urinal! Same goes for the man who made Little Hitler,” referring to Drouet’s wax figure he.)

But would Druet make these nine sculptures without Cattelan? “They were his ideas, but the way I created them,” Druet said in his studio the day after the trial began. “It’s the life I bring to each character. I express myself with what I do.”

back he Sold for $17 million at auction in 2016, it’s not hard to imagine why Druet might feel like he’s got a decent deal. (Gallery Perrotin says it originally started with 33,333 EUR or 34,753 USD. ) According to Perrotin, the formally trained sculptor was paid around $280,000 for all the works Cattelan commissioned and never signed a contract. But Druet, discovered by Cattelan and Perrotin through the Paris Wax Museum, claims he took legal steps to “correct the wrong”.

Druet hasn’t worked that much since he asked. The wax version he made of Cattelan a few years ago – Pope Hitler – was always in the studio. However, these figures were not what he thought were true artistic practices.

“My life doesn’t revolve around that. I live the life of a sculptor,” he said, referring to bronze works he sculpted in another Paris studio. “It’s hard to make a living sculpting. What I do for Cattelan is an extension of what I do for Cattelan [wax] Grevin Museum. This is how I make a living. ”

His dissatisfaction with the Italian artist and Emmanuel Perrotin became more acute as we talked. Perrotin “assured me that the gallery would talk about me and bring me a lot of commissions. They never did,” he recalled the dealer’s first visit in 1999.

They also never invited Druet to the opening ceremony. “They wanted to hide me,” he said. “Catelan is their winner. I’m just a tool. It becomes a problem when they start to forget you exist.”

Perrotin’s lawyers said there was no attempt to conceal Druet’s work, citing press material about them and several media reports that referred to him as a result.

In 2016, Druet scoured his name in vain at the Cattelan retrospective at the Monnaie de Paris, in vain. Museums and Galleries Perrotin Druet’s request to have his name appear on every wall sign in his sculpted work, as he formally requested at the time, was rejected. (That decision led to the current legal process.)

Will Druet be content to see his name appear in a longer explanatory text at some point in the show, we asked?

“Of course, that’s what I want. To be recognized as a sculptor,” Drouet said.

That may be true, but as of now, Druet’s lawyers have confirmed that the sculptor’s name “should be everywhere.”

A verdict on the trial is expected on July 8.

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