The Art Guys Issue Final Statement Over Morgan Spurlock Suit Controversy

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 “ Art Guys Get Legit” by Dave Hickey in support of this argument.