Speaking of copyright/intellectual property issues, our reporting earlier this month on the controversy over director Morgan Spurlock wearing a suit very similar ones worn in the 1990s by The Art Guys, wound up making the internet rounds fairly quickly. Ultimately, Spurlock himself responded, saying he hadn’t heard of the duo before and the accusations that he’d stolen the idea were baseless. The Art Guys don’t believe that that’s entirely accurate, but they’ve decided to drop the issue, no longer wishing to discuss it. They’ve issued their final statement on the matter, which you’ll find in full after the jump. No matter your opinion on the controversy, it’s a great read, particularly in their response to those who claimed they weren’t the first to have the branded-suit idea.
FROM: The Art Guys
RE: Final statement concerning The Art Guys SUITS project and Mr. Spurlock’s movie
DATE: February 18, 2011
Much has been written and said lately regarding The Art Guys’ SUITS project and the suit Morgan Spurlock has used to publicize his movie “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”. For us it is an unfortunate and undesired situation and one which we find distasteful and distracting. Therefore, we wish to submit the following as our final statement concerning this matter.
There is no doubt in our minds that Mr. Spurlock has plagiarized our project SUITS: The Clothes Make The Man. Hewears a dark men’s business suit that has been covered with embroidered corporate logos from companies who have paid for this advertising space in an effort to engage the media and the public about the topic of the pervasiveness of advertising, marketing and branding in our culture. In our opinion, the specific form of this object, and the way in which this object is utilized, is almost an exact replica of the SUITS project and of the specific garments which are now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
We began researching and organizing the SUITS project in 1996. For almost two years before the start of the yearlong event of wearing the SUITS, we consulted and met with many people including artists, designers, curators, publishers, business professionals and ad agency professionals. One person who was particularly helpful and supportive was the late Richard Martin, Curator, The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Richard showed us many designs in their collection that he found pertinent to the SUITS project and shared with us catalogs and books about artist-designed clothing with a specific emphasis on artists who have used text, signs and advertising images on clothing. The intellectual heritage of the SUITS owes itself to artists such as Pat Oleszko, Gene Pool, Harrod Blank, Robert Watts and other Fluxus artists, Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuy’ Felt Suit, James Rosenquist’s Paper Suit and many others, not to mention the costumes of Futurist, Surrealist, Dadaist and Bauhaus artists. Many artists have utilized the form and context of clothing as a sculptural medium. While openly and explicitly referencing popular culture comparisons such as Nascar drivers, the SUITS project is ultimately and finally an art work, and should properly be studied and considered within this context.
Despite what has been printed lately, we have never said or implied that we were the first or only to consider the pervasiveness of advertising, marketing and branding in our culture. Nor have we ever said that the SUITS were the first or only outfits covered in logos. We have always demonstrated the similarities between the SUITS and various examples of marketing in our culture and all of this is thoroughly documented in articles, interviews and books. But we also believe that the specific form of the SUITS and the philosophical and conceptual issues that it addresses, stand uniquely apart. It was the first of its kind. We offer the essay “http://TheArtGuys.com/ARTICLES/Art%20Guys%20Get%20Legit%20(D.%20Hick.pdfThe Art Guys Get Legit” by Dave Hickey in support of this argument.
During the course of wearing the SUITS for a year all over the United States, the SUITS appeared in various print and electronic media including CNN, CBS News Sunday Morning, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, The New Yorker, PRI, Art News and many others. A complete print and electronic bibliography is printed in the book about the project SUITS: The Clothes Make The Man (The Art Guys with Todd Oldham) published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers. After the completion of the year-long event of wearing the SUITS, the garments were acquired by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The SUITS have subsequently appeared in exhibitions, books, catalogs, articles and blogs. All of this is well documented and readily available online.
The SUITS are not as obscure as Mr. Spurlock suggests and his statements to the contrary are evidence of the common tactic of evading specific accusations while attempting to discredit the accusers.
Despite what has already been claimed, we have absolutely no monetary reward to be gained from this controversy or from issuing this statement. Nor do we seek it. The only one who stands to benefit financially from this controversy is Mr. Spurlock himself. He has stated that his contractual agreement with sponsors includes benchmarks for numbers of “impressions” — that is, the number of people who are estimated to have seen the ads on his suit in various media. It is in his favor for this issue to continue to be publicized.
We believe that the companies who have advertised on Mr. Spurlock’s suit have been deceived into believing that this was an original idea conceived by him. It is not.
The issue of advertising firms and businesses plagiarizing the work of artists is not new. It was an issue before and during the SUITS project and it is an issue now. There are many well-known examples of this including recent disputes between Christo and Jean Claude and AT&T, Christian Marclay and Apple, Fischli and Weiss and Honda, Gillian Wearing and Volkswagen, among many others. We agree with Christian Marclay when he was quoted as saying, “This culture’s so much about suing each other that if we want to have anything that’s more of an open exchange of ideas, one has to stop this mentality.” But we also believe that what must stop is the plagiarizing of artists’ ideas for one’s own benefit and profit.
We believe that Mr. Spurlock has plagiarized our project SUITS: The Clothes Make The Man by wearing a dark men’s business suit that has been covered with embroidered corporate logos from companies who have paid for this advertising space in an effort to engage the media and the public about the topic of the pervasiveness of advertising, marketing and branding in our culture.
There is nothing more to say and we are not interested in spending any more of our time with this issue as we are concerned with other ideas and projects. Simply put, we have better things to do. We are very grateful to those who have offered advice and support. This is our final statement concerning this matter.
The Art Guys