The Japanese artist known for his distinctive anime-style illustrations of children expressed surprise at this turn of events.
With dozens of solo exhibitions under his belt and numerous works on display in some of the most famous galleries around the globe, Yoshitomo Nara has been hailed as one of Japan’s most influential contemporary artists. His cartoonish images of wide-eyed, grumpy-looking children has won him a huge local and international following, but now it seems this worldwide recognition and adoration has turned around to bite him on the behind, as a Nara-esque image on a Korean beauty product is now being used to take the artist to court.
▼ Nara’s images of cute yet grumpy-looking wide-eyed children can be seen in the hands of these look-alike children below.
▼ The artist has drawn hundreds of images in this style for decades.
Nara’s recent troubles began when the artist came across a tub of beauty cream being sold online by Korean cosmetics company W.Lab. The design on the package looked remarkably similar to one of Nara’s original grumpy child drawings, so he sent a warning to the company. In return, the company filed a suit against the artist in a Korean court.
In a series of Tweets, which have since been removed from his Twitter account, Nara explained the situation, expressing shock that he was the one being sued, despite the fact that the artwork on the product appeared to be a clear plagiarisation of his work.
“I thought this crossed the line of mere resemblance. While I’ve turned a blind eye to small works and signboards that contain slight copies (of my works), I thought this one was pretty severe, so I sent the company a letter of warning. I was expecting them to revise the image and not have them go to court over it, but instead, the company filed a counter-claim, saying ‘they were the author of the work’, and ‘Nara has no right to claim restitution’. I’ll be corresponding with them in consultation with a copyright lawyer.”
The beauty product, which is designed to create an even complexion and cover blemishes on the face, has been on the market for at least a year, where it retails for 35,000 Korean Won (US$29.08). While many customer reviews mention the appeal of the kick-ass female character that adorns the package and lid of the product, Nara says his concerns are less about commercial claims, and more about defending the rights of artists and designers to protect their works. We’ll have to wait to find out whether or not Nara will be able to successfully defend his claims in this case.