French conceptual artist ORLAN has been ordered to pay music superstar Lady Gaga £17,000 (€20,000) after Paris’ High Court rejected her plagiarism suit on 7 July.
ORLAN, whose own body forms the centre of her artistic practice of ‘carnal art’, accused Lady Gaga of appropriating her work and sought £24.2 million (US$31.7 million) from the singer. Lawyers for the artist claim Gaga copied two of ORLAN’s sculptures in her 2011 ‘Born this Way’ album art and the music video for its eponymous single. The first, ‘Bumpload’ (1989), depicts the artist with prosthetics that create disturbing ridges on her face and shoulders. Gaga is also said to have plagiarised ‘Woman with Head’ (1996), a sculpture of ORLAN’s severed head on a table. In 2013, ORLAN’s lawyer Philippe Dutilleul-Francoeur told Artinfo that ‘Orlan’s entire universe of hybridisations was copied in the Born This Way album… The inspiration went too far’.
Rejecting ORLAN’s plagiarism claims, the High Court in Paris held that artistic installations cannot be reduced to their physical elements and that as works of conceptual art their message was ‘essential’. In reference to ‘Bumpload’, the court held that the notion of transforming the body into a hybrid being should remain a free concept. The court ordered ORLAN to pay Gaga and her record label £10,000 each in accordance with the French legal code for civil proceedings. In an email to artnet News, ORLAN stated that she has filed an appeal against the judgment. She will also pursue the claim in Manhattan federal court where her New York lawyers filed suit in January this year against the fashion director and makeup artist behind the ‘Born this Way’ music video.
ORLAN’s £24.2 million claim represented about 7.5% of the profits generated by the ‘Born this Way’ album of which 2.3 million copies were sold.