After recently avoiding legal drama in France, artist Maurizio Cattelan faces a separate trial in the United States over his famous banana sculpture Actorwhich caused a stir at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2019.
Artist Joe Morford alleged that Cattelan plagiarized his work Banana & Orange (2000), which similarly presents pieces of fruit taped to a wall. Cattelan’s legal team had tried to have the lawsuit thrown out, but last week a judge in the Southern District of Florida ruled there was enough resemblance between Actor and Banana & Orange for the costume to move forward.
“Morford must plausibly allege that Cattelan had access to Banana & Orange and that, having dissected Banana & Orange and stripped (or filtered) the unprotected material from it, there is substantial similarity between the two works”, Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. wrote in a ruling filed Wednesday.
Morford claims the work was available on Facebook and YouTube, although it’s unclear whether Cattelan actually saw the article on either of those social media platforms.
A representative for Cattelan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During its presentation at Art Basel Miami Beach, Actor generated a mix of outrage and fascination, and was at one point even eaten by a local performance artist. In the end, the work attracted so much attention that it had to be completely removed by Perrotin, the gallery that brought it to the fair and sold three copies for a total of $390,000.
A version of Actor is currently on view in a Cattelan survey at the Sea World Culture and Arts Center in Shenzhen.
The lawsuit is the second this year involving Cattelan’s work. The first took place in Paris and involved considering whether Cattelan could be considered the author of some of his most famous works, given that he had commissioned a wax sculptor to produce them. That lawsuit was dismissed last week. Cattelan was not a defendant in this lawsuit, although Perrotin, his gallery, and Monnaie de Paris, an art space that organized an investigation into his art, were.