The Satire goes on

January 21st, 2011

Artinfo article here

SAN FRANCISCO— Today, blue-chip artist Jeff Koons turns 56, which has got to be tough for someone whose work is so obsessed with youth and youthful beauty. Compounding any distress the artist might feel at being a mid-quinquagenarian, yesterday, the San Francisco bookstore and art gallery Park Life tried to head off a lawsuit from Koons by filing a federal complaint that, in its greatest moments, mocks the artist and his legal team for their attempt to stop Park Life from selling or advertising $30 bookends that look like balloon dogs (and therefore kind of look like Jeff Koons’s balloon dog sculptures). Park Life satirically — or as satirically as possible in legalese — contests the fact that Koons has “removed from from the public domain the iconic shape and design of a balloon dog by simply having implemented that classic shape in a large metal sculpture.”

To backtrack, this saga began on December 20, when attorneys representing Jeff Koons LLC sent a cease-and-desist letter to the gallery, insisting that the balloon dog bookends infringed on Koons’s copyright and intellectual property right. Those at the gallery out West were a bit dumbfounded, as they get the pups from Toronto-based company imm Living, which distributes the tchotchke in question to more than 700 stores in the United States Nonetheless, they found themselves on the other side of the wagging fingers of Koons’s lawyers. So now Park Life, represented by Jedediah Wakefield with Fenwick & West, seeks to have a judge weigh in on this primordial dilemma: which came first, the balloon dog or the balloon dog?

Because it’s just too good to be true, we will now proceed to excerpt the most fabulous parts of the federal complaint. But let us not forget to first say a very happy birthday to you, Mr. Koons. Send in the clowns, but remind them that at this party, balloonery will result in prison time.

From the Complaint for Declaratory Relief; Demand for Jury Trial Filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division:

1. The document begins: “As virtually any clown can attest, no one owns the idea of making a balloon dog, and the shape created by twisting a balloon into a dog-like form is part of the public domain.” I’d like to call to the stand the first expert witness. Dr. Bozo, will you please raise your right hand.

2. “Upon information and belief, Jeff Koons LLC purports to represent the intellectual property rights of Jeff Koons, a retired stockbroker whose sculptures and other works are well-known for copying pre-existing forms and images from popular culture.” Ouch. Translation: You are nothing but a retired stockbroker and a copycat, Mr. Koons. For shame. (In Koons’s defense, he was a commodities broker, not a stockbroker.)

3. “Park Life participates in fundraising and support for several Bay Area non-profit organizations and provides opportunities for lesser known artists to display and promote their work.” Translation: We, on the other hand, are saintly people who live in a part of the country where we grow our own food and share it with the less fortunate while all holding hands. Also, our artists aren’t 56, you mid-quinquagenarian, you.

4. “The Balloon Dog Bookends manufactured by imm Living and sold by Park Life are painted resin statues based on the classic art of twisting balloons into the shape of animals, commonly practiced by clowns, magicians, and street performers,” the complaint states. On the other hand, “The Balloon Dog Sculpture that Koons claims to be infringed is a highly reflective metal reproduction, measuring over ten feet tall, based on a balloon twisted into shape to make a toy dog.” So if you had, like, eyes, you could probably tell them apart. Burn.

5. And here’s a fascinating fact provided by the plaintiff: “The art of twisting balloons into the shape of animals, or ‘balloon modeling’ long predates Koons’ work. While the origin of balloon modeling is unknown, upon information and belief, balloon modeling has been traced back as far as 1939 when H.J. Bonnert of Scranton, Pennsylvania performed a balloon modeling act at the Pittsburgh Magicians’ Convention.” Obviously.