When Threadless art-shirt designers Jimiyo and AJ Dimarucot discovered artist Rob Pruitt ripping their panda design, they got suing mad, but first… Threadless staff and friends, dressed in shirts in question and panda suits, staged a silent flash mob at his art exhibit at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in NYC. Pruitt – serial appropriator – was there and he wasn’t happy. So, who’s right?
The legality/morality of art world’s imagery appropriation is a muddy, inconsistent mess. So let’s treat it as the subjective bitch that it is. When 0100101110101101.org lynched Mickey Mouse, they stole a recognizable commercial visual and re-invented it in their own sick context. That’s cool. When Pruitt “borrowed” a design from a designer and essentially wallpapered it into his design piece without updating the context, adding meaning or doing anything but putting squiggly lines around it…. That’s weak.
Of course, the important issue here is whether the panda model signed a release form and what royalty percentages are due for the t-shirt sales, the art sales and the possible court settlement.