Artist Ai Weiwei awarded more than $350,000 in damages over advertising infringement

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – A Danish court on Wednesday (July 17) ordered a Volkswagen dealer to pay Chinese artist Ai Weiwei more than 230,000 euros (S$350,000) in damages for using one of his works in an advertisement without authorisation.

“SMC’s (the dealer) use of the piece of art constituted a violation of the marketing law’s paragraph… on good marketing practices,” the tribunal ruled.

In 2017, SMC used a photo of a Volkswagen Polo parked in front of an Ai art installation in Copenhagen to promote the launch of a new car on its website and in the dealer’s customer magazine.

The work by the 61-year-old dissident artist, entitled Soleil Levant, comprised 3,500 life jackets collected from refugees who arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos between 2015 and 2016, crammed into the windows of the Charlottenborg art gallery.

The court held that commercial use of the work was a “clear contradiction of the considerations and thoughts behind the work”, noting the misuse could be harmful to the artist’s reputation.

Ai announced his intention to sue the dealer in a post on Instagram in March.

“The infringing material was circulated to over 200,000 people, giving the false impression that I had authorised Volkswagen to use my artwork in its ad for the new Polo,” he stated.

The son of a poet revered by former communist leaders, he helped design the famous “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but fell out of favour after criticising the government.

He was imprisoned for 81 days in 2011 in China.

He has been living in Europe since 2015.

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