Joan Mitchel Foundation And Luis Vuitton, Potential Lawsuit

Unauthorised use of the American abstract painter’s work in a Louis Vuitton advertising campaign prompts legal action. According to the New York Times , the Joan Mitchel Foundation was approached twice by the fashion brand to use the paintings as a backdrop to sell a range of handbags. On the second occasion a representative for the company emphasized it was a personal request from Bernard Arnault, owner of LVMH, the parent company. The foundation refused on the grounds that it never licenses use of the work for anything other than educational purposes.

Educational purposes are interestingly considered a fair use practice under both Canadian and US copyright, and are an exception to require consent. However, in this case, a commercial photo-shoot doesn\’t fit into any fair use exception.

Mitchell is currently the subject of an exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton, the private art space of Arnault, in which works hang alongside those of Claude Monet. Despite the estate’s refusal, a shoot was organised at the exhibition – for print and digital adverts – with actor Léa Seydoux posing with the $10,500 bags in front of works including Quatuor II for Betsy Jolas (1976) and Le Grand Valée XIV (For a Little While) (1983), both part of the Centre Pompidou collection, and Edrita Fried (1981), a work retained by the estate.

Louis Vuitton has refused to comment to the media but in a video appearing on the page for the La Capucines bags, the model is shown only walking around a gallery containing a Monet painting.