Where does appropriation stop and plagiarism begin? The Swiss artist Valentin Carron has been accused of plagiarism for his piece The Dawn, presented by his Zurich gallery Eva Presenhuber at FIAC last month.
The resin sculpture, priced at a reported $67,000, is a replica of a 1977 steel artwork by Francesco Marino di Teana, L’Aube (“dawn” in French), which is displayed in Neuchâtel in front of the city’s art and history museum.
Carron told RTS that he “wanted to reproduce the emotion this work provoked” in him when he first encountered it in Neuchâtel. The artist, who represented Switzerland at the last Venice Biennale, described the process as one of “appropriation.”
“The copy is so exact that it becomes a forgery,” retorted the son of the artist, Nicolas Marino. “It’s complete plagiarism.”
Marino has made clear he intends to sue Carron. He is supported by Jean-François Roudillon, the director of Paris’s Galerie Loft, in charge of Francesco Marino di Teana’s catalogue raisonné.
“I am saddened and shocked that an international art fair like FIAC facilitates practices that force the artist’s heir to go to court to protect his rights and his father’s reputation,” he said.
He continued: “Are contemporary artists so lacking in ideas that, rather than being inspired by the work of their predecessors, they cast copies?”
Several art world personalities have come to Carron’s defense, including Christian Bernard, the director of the Mamco in Geneva. Talking to RTS, he insisted on the difference of material between the two pieces. Carron’s resin piece “denounces itself as an imitation, presents itself as a replica,” he said. “The simple fact that it has the same title shows that it’s an appropriation and not a theft.”
“Appropriation,” he continued quoting the work of Elaine Sturtevant, “is a process that has been legitimated by art history. Valentin Carron has pursued this process and brought something new to it. Accusing him of plagiarism is showing that one ignores everything of today’s art.”
Bernard said that he was ready to defend Carron’s work in court.
Pierre Keller, the former director of the Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), supportS his former student. He said that Carron had been influenced by his professor at ECAL, John Armleder, who is famous, in part, for his appropriations. In his view, Marino’s lawsuit “is already lost.”