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Andy Warhol to Ghada Wali – Art thievery from the US & Egypt

Art plagiarism is a hot topic globally, and Egypt is no exception with the controversy surrounding  graphic designer Ghada Wali, accused plagiarizing a Russian artist’s work.

And in the US, the Supreme Court settled a years-old legal battle between the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and photographer Lynn Goldsmith.

In the latest chapters of the conflict between the two parties, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts lost the copyright battle with photographer Lynn Goldsmith, after the Supreme Court decided to condemn the late Warhol’s use of a photograph taken by Goldsmith of the late rock star Orange Prince.

The judges upheld an earlier ruling that Warhol’s work based on the photograph, taken by Smith in 1981, was not immune from a copyright infringement claim for his use of unauthorized images by the original photographer, according to the Guardian.

Since 2017, the Andy Warhol and Lynn Goldsmith case has been of great interest in the art world and entertainment industry due to its implications for fair use and freedom of expression by allowing copyrighted works to be used under certain circumstances without the owner’s permission.

Warhol, who died in 1987, was one of the most prominent members of the pop art movement that originated in the 1950s, creating silkscreen prints and other works inspired by portraits of celebrities including the late superstar Marilyn Monroe, singer Elvis Presley, the late Queen Elizabeth II, Chinese leader Mao Zedong and boxer Muhammad Ali Clay.

The controversy began when the US Vanity Fair magazine, specialized in culture and art, commissioned Warhol to design a picture of rock singer Prince to accompany their story.

Warhol created 14 silkscreens and two pencil illustrations based on the photograph taken by Goldsmith for “Prince for Newsweek” in 1981, most of which were not authorized by the photographer.

Goldsmith, 75, said she learned of Warhol’s work after Prince’s death in 2016, and began suing the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2017 after the latter asked the court to prove that the works “did not violate copyright.”

The US Supreme Court focused on the specific use allegedly infringing the copyright of photographer Goldsmith, after Warhol used the image for the same commercial purpose rather than for transformative art as the foundation alleges.

The US judiciary attributed the reason for Warhol’s conviction to the fact that he used the image of the rock star Prince for a commercial purpose by advertising a certain type of soup, while opponents of the ruling saw that the use of the image was not for a commercial purpose but to raise awareness of the consumer behavior.

The Supreme Court’s decision turns its back on creativity, Judge Elena Kagan said, opposing the ruling. While the court judge responded to the accusations saying that it is full of fallacies.


Ghada Wali and the Russian artist

The Supreme Court’s decision coincides with accusations brought against Egyptian graphic designer, Ghada Wali, of stealing the work of Russian artist, Georgy Korasov, in a design for an international beverage company.

Wali has been accused of plagiarizing her designs for her paintings used in the Girls’ College metro station in Cairo, leading to outrage across social media.

The incident dates back to July 2022, when Korasov wrote on his official Facebook page, saying: “My paintings were used in the Cairo subway without my permission and even mentioning my name!”

Wali’s statements, in an interview with TV host Amr Adib on his program “al-Hekaya” (The Story), sparked outrage on social media, and many criticized the designer for justifying her position.

Korasov said, on Tuesday, that he did not communicate with Wali, nor did she try to communicate with him, adding that the law would be the final arbiter between both of them.

The best scenario to end this crisis from Korasov’s point of view is to resolve the matter through lawyers of both parties, he told the “Happening in Egypt” program on MBC Masr, Tuesday.

“I think it is best, from my point of view, for this problem to be resolved at the court level. This is what is happening in the US.”

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