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Two Watchmakers Wanted to Cut Up a Painting to Decorate Dials. So the Artist Took Them to Court—and Won

Tal R successfully won an injunction against two designers who intended to dismember "Paris Chic."

An exhibition of work by Tal R at Art Basel 2015 Shutterstock

Artist Tal R, whose vibrant collages, paintings, sculptures, and installations have been exhibited at the Louisiana Museum for Moderne Kunst in Denmark, the Camden Arts Centre in London, and other international institutions, has won an injunction against two watch designers who intended to dismember the artist’s painting Paris Chic. According to a report by the Guardian, a Danish court ruled on Monday that the company’s leaders, Dann Thorleifsson and Arne Leivsgard, would violate copyright law if they were to cut up the work.

Thorleifsson and Leivsgard, who purchased Paris Chic from Victoria Miro gallery in London this year for £70,000 (about $90,500), were also ordered to pay the artist 31,550 Danish krone (about $4,700) for legal fees. The pair had hoped to use pieces of Paris Chic to adorn watch faces for their new brand, Letho. They had planned to sell the watches for 10,000 Danish krone (about $1,500) each.

Tal R’s lawyer, Jørgen Permin, told the Guardian that he was “very pleased with the very clear decision,” adding that he hopes the case will set a precedent. “We hope it will mark the end of this case and that it will mean that Tal R and his fellow artists may avoid similar disputes in the future.”

Heidi Højmark Helveg, who represented Thorleifsson and Leivsgard in the case, had argued that her clients’ plans to cut up the painting would destroy the work, as opposed to alter it, which would breach copyright law.

“The pieces will be so small that it will not possible to know in any way which work it is from. Each watch will take just 0.04 percent of the original work,” she said.

As of Monday afternoon, Thorleifsson and Leivsgard were still weighing whether to appeal the decision or attempt to reach a settlement.

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